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Another lost labor of love
4 December 2016
Karan Johar has experienced a slump for several years with his own directorial ventures. Not since Kabhi Alvida na kehna has he delivered an engaging romance or social drama that appealed to the masses. His decision therefore, to return to a love triangle story brings with it the apprehension of walking the same old path but also the nostalgia of the days when a romantic drama was portrayed as a beautiful saga. With some melodious tunes by Pritam, a beloved cast comprising of contemporaries such as Anushka Sharma, Ranbir Kapoor and Aishwarya Rai, 'Ae dil hai mushkil' has the promise of Karan Johar's grand return to form....

Ayan (Ranbir Kapoor) befriends Alizeh (Anushka Sharma) at a bar after a quarrel with his girlfriend. They try to hookup but he fails miserably. Instead, Alizeh chooses to hang out with him for the night, enjoying various other venues in his company. They get better acquainted with each other and even decide on double dating with their significant partners. Lisa (Lisa Haydon) portrays a convincing bimbo who eventually breaks the relationships for both parties, thus giving Ayan and Alizeh the opportunity to take a break and travel to Paris where the fun and joy of their new found friendship takes a different course for Ayan. Predictably, he falls in love with Alizeh but the feeling isn't mutual. Therein appears Ali (Fawad Khan), Alizeh's ex boyfriend who she still misses terribly even though she celebrated her breakup a few nights ago at a party. Mysteriously, she decides to leave with him, abandoning Ayan at the drop of a hat by Ali. These unusual circumstances are too much to cope with for our rom-com hero. It only gets worse for him when Alizeh invites him to Rajasthan for her wedding with Ali. Ayan struggles to maintain a celebratory composure through most of the events but his love for her shows true form when he suddenly breaks into singing Channa mereya. This emotional melody rises to another level with its timing in the screenplay.

Right after his abrupt departure, Ayan encounters Saba (Aishwarya Rai) on his flight back home and shares his plight. Months later, they meet up in Vienna and a new love story begins. This one is far more steamy and sensual with Aishwarya looking her ravishing best. Unfortunately though, for our confused Ayan, his heart is divided and most of it is still yearning for that friend he left behind. They reconnect but it's not all that pleasant. Break up, patch up, break up and it's all going around in a sad circle for him. The story of Ayan and Alizeh isn't over just yet as Karan Johar drags it into yet another stage. By the time it's all over, we realize that it has been a mushkil safar if not totally a suffering.

Karan Johar repeats some of his narrative inconsistencies and lack of character detailing. Similar to his prior films, we have no idea how a young MBA student can afford to fly in a private jet and take numerous vacations without any support from his family, friends or stable lifestyle. Alizeh's past relationship is also confusing as she dances to a breakup song in celebration and a few minutes later, abandons all that she stood for and is smitten for the very lover she detested. Saba is an urdu poet by profession and that justifies her lavish lifestyle in Vienna of all places. Add to that, the lack of nuance in the story of 2 people who grow from acquaintances to inseparable friends. Johar's only credit should be the first half of the film when Ranbir and Anushka are at their natural best and when the script is far more engaging and enjoyable. The almost saddened, frustrated tone of the second half is what brings the film crashing down.

Pritam's music is refreshingly melodious and peppy when it needs to be. The title track is of course a trademark Arijit Singh rendition whereas Bulleya is elevated with Shilpa Rao's mesmerizing vocals. Breakup song and cutie pie are necessary fun songs in the first half but it's Channa mereya, brilliantly written by Amitabh Bhattacharya and sung by Arijit in a melody that conveys Ayan's feelings in the best manner possible.

Aishwarya Rai returns to a glamorous form and is most mesmerizing to behold in any outfit. Fawad Khan though brief in appearance, leaves a good impression and it's a pity that talents such as his will be left across the border due to inane politics. Anushka Sharma clearly brings the screen to life with a vivacious performance. She is clearly among the best female actors of her generation along with Kangana. Ranbir Kapoor has hit a wall. Ayan is almost his 9th character of a struggling lover whose immaturity, lack of understanding, stubbornness and inability to redirect his energy to love elsewhere, leads to a frustrating story. Ranbir's character is at the center of the film's story and he does well to carry such a burden but it soon becomes predictable. If he doesn't pick up roles like Rajneeti, Rocket Singh or Barfi, his hard work and likability will degenerate rapidly. Discredit for this also goes to the director and story writer who fails to enrich India's current darling.

ADHM is a fine example of how an Indian film can make big money at the box office with a stellar cast, exemplary music, glamorous looks and just a half decent narrative. It's just a shame to see Karan Johar return to his director's seat and deliver a mediocre film under a big banner. Watch it for the actors and the music but don't expect to walk out with tears or heartfelt joy. Those were long gone before the yawns took over.

  • 6.76 on a scale of 1-10.
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Marvel opens the mystic world
4 December 2016
Marvel's superheroes prepare for the eventual onslaught by Thanos in the upcoming Infinity Wars but while their powers can defend Earth from most dangers, they stand little chance from mystical threats. The little known world of sorcerers has its guardians who are tasked with the protection of our world, led by the Ancient One; the sorcerer supreme. When a past apprentice goes rogue and opens gates for the dark power to obliterate Earth, an unlikely wanderer knocks on the door of Kamar-Taj seeking supernatural healing for his irreparable hands. Simply based on his filmography, director Scott Derrickson must have employed some sorcery to convince Marvel and Disney to let him work on such an important character in the Marvel Universe but he delivers a totally unique, spectacular and almost transcendent take on Doctor Strange.

Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a highly accomplished neurosurgeon whose successful career brought with it a burden of arrogance that is deeply knitted into his character. A distracting phone call sends him flying off the side of a mountain in his Lamborghini, resulting in severe injuries especially to his hands. The accident rendered him incapable of performing surgeries and after several futile attempts to revive them, he had lost all hope until he was directed to Kathmandu by a paraplegic who miraculously walked again. Strange arrives at Kamar-Taj. Little known to him are the mystic wonders and powers that lie within and once he is forced to shed his disbelief and inhibitions about things beyond his understanding, he quickly learns directly from the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) and Mordo (Chiwetel Eljiofor). As he grasps the possibilities of the mirror dimension, astral planes and the power of spells, the real threat of Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) strikes the 4 sanctums that protect the Earth from the dark dimension. No sooner has Strange barely learned to harness his newfound powers, does he have to wield them to protect the falling sanctums. Meanwhile, his fellow surgeon, Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams) is perplexed by the stranger things around his mystical appearance whenever he brings in an injured sorcerer or himself to her. Stephen's curiosity also draws him to a secret book owned by the Ancient One from which, Kaecilius had stolen some pages containing powerful time bending spells. Using the closely guarded Eye of Agamotto, Strange views the stolen pages and unleashes a forbidden power that breaks the laws of nature. Strictly warned against such uses of the Eye by Mordo and by the sanctum's guardian, Wong (Benedict Wong), Strange quickly realizes that his trip to Nepal for curing his broken hands now gets him involved in stakes far greater than a revival of his medical career. Kaecilius plans to overcome all the sanctums and break the mystic spell to open the portal for the dark dimension and its sinister lord, Dormammu who will trounce Earth completely.

The showdown of sorcerers occurs at the Hong Kong sanctum with Strange and Mordo's late arrival. The sanctum has already fallen and the dark dimension is entering Earth. Strange's audacious attempt to reverse the effects of Kaecilius' attack involves some persistent negotiation with Dormammu with the help of the time bending powers of an Infinity gem. This is also when Benedict Cumberbatch delivers his his trademark act of a renewed, wise and in-command hero that saves the day. Being an arrogant surgeon with gifted hands wasn't out of his comfort zone at all (Sherlock) but sorcery was a first and he depicted his character's coping with the mystical themes, characters and superhero powers with likable credibility. Cumberbatch will shine brighter among Marvel's other heroes and will certainly maintain his commanding presence as was evident in the mid-credits scene with Thor. Rachel McAdams is sincere with her character and is a welcome addition to the supporting ladies in the Marvelverse. Chiwetel Ejiofor denounces rule-breakers and his dedication to the Ancient One makes him a powerful sorcerer. His role might dramatically change though. Benedict Wong breaks away from the Asian stereotype in Hollywood and rather than being a warrior, he simply remains the guardian of mystical books in an imposing manner that seconds his performance as Kublai Khan on Netflix. Tilda Swinton showcases the wisdom and apprehensions of the Ancient One who has been around long enough. As a mentor to a struggling doctor, she approaches him with sternness, humor and wisdom that makes the mystic world more approachable for Strange.

Scott Derrickson does not compromise with the film's visual appeal. Each magical trick, mystical action and execution of a spell is portrayed with eye popping effects that show us dimensions never seen before. Were it not for Swinton's gradual explanation of the world of sorcery, the visuals were rapid and unabating. Apart from the creative efforts behind making the film, its engaging storyline, the introduction of one of the most interesting Marvel heroes and a superlative performance by Benedict Cumberbatch make 'Doctor Strange' a must watch for comic book fans on IMAX. The sorcerer's growth in mystic abilities and his involvement with the Avengers will only make the upcoming wars more exciting.

  • 8.412 on a scale of 1-10.
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Shin Godzilla (2016)
Big monster mayhem
30 October 2016
The legendary Toho Studios of Japan released its first film about Godzilla in 1954. Since then, it has made 28 Godzilla films apart from several other Kaiju related monster epics. 28 Godzilla films. Without a doubt, they are able to revive the monster from the depths of the radioactive waste and make a statement whenever they please. They are the authority when it comes to devastating monstrosity on screen. Directors Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi embrace the uncanny elements of the older Godzilla films while introducing it in modern day Japan with contemporary issues in the foreground. The nuclear monster mostly wreaks havoc in the background as tense debates, discussions and bureaucratic processes add to the dramatic effect. 'Shin Godzilla' isn't a western production where millions are spent in detailing the look of the monster with little attention paid to a dramatic script that builds genuine tension. Remaining true to its roots, this movie's focus is the effect of its emergence on the citizens of Japan and the government's attempt to cope with the devastation.

A couple of mysterious incidents in Japanese waters results in theories and speculation that soon get confirmed when 'the creature' makes landfall. In a 'Cloverfield' like scene of absolute mayhem, the creature crawls through a city, destroying property in its path. Soon enough, the scientists discover that it is now able to stand on its hind legs and thus cover major distances. The government initiates mass evacuations and mobilizes its army and air force to take down Godzilla. The sea monster is now a fast evolving giant that grew 3 times its original size since its last spotting. This isn't a monster that has expressions and bodily movements that are aggressive. This monster is simply walking through a city being clueless, tearing it apart unintentionally. There is no emotion in this Godzilla which makes it all the more intimidating. The comical unblinking eyes might look like amateurish animatronics but the objective is clear. You are looking at a soulless creature that is unaware of its surroundings and is simply unstoppable. A capable team of government officials and scientists analyze data and take measures to prevent human casualties. The insanely high radiation levels indicate that Godzilla harbors a sort of nuclear fission within itself, resulting from the radioactive waste that created it in the first place. Much of the film's drama is generated in these task force rooms where they attempt to stop Godzilla from reaching Tokyo. The bureaucracy in government proceedings is mocked at while the predictably individualistic approach of the US is made blatantly obvious.

Japan's failure to stall Godzilla's progress towards Tokyo prompts US intervention and with its B-2 bombers, attacks the creature with brute force. For the first time, we see Godzilla shaken after an assault and it doesn't go well thereafter. Atomic rays are emitted from its mouth and fins that destroy everything around it with acute precision. This retaliation was a shocking revelation of its abilities and the depletion of its energy made it dormant for several days. This gave our main character, Rando Yaguchi, the Deputy Chief Cabinet secretary played by Hiroki Hasegawa, the essential time he needed to come up with a solution that would stall the monster from destroying Tokyo. Satomi Ishihara plays Kayoko Ann Patterson, an unconvincing special envoy who is supposed to be more American than Japanese. Their main objective now is to stop Godzilla by an alternate means that does not require the deployment of a nuclear warhead. With millions of lives at stake and just a matter of days till the creature becomes active again, a helpless Prime Minister and his competent task force will have to understand how Godzilla functions and through those findings, bring an end to the annihilation.

Shin Godzilla's visual effects nicely blend the old school technologies of animatronics and puppets with CGI and live action photography. While some audiences would find certain sequences incredulous, the directors achieve the desired result of showing an attack or execution of a logistical idea. Depicting the devastation in a vastly populated and congested urban area has infrastructural impact and they use those very elements to a convincing degree in their response. The drama in the situation rooms at times rambles on but showcases the contemporary challenges of a bureaucratic system and the shadows of a government's failure post major catastrophes. On the other hand, depriving the creature of any intelligence, emotion or awareness of its being makes it even more intimidating. It stumbles through an entire city at a slow but destructive pace with no clear objective. Yet, when it is attacked viciously, it evolves a lethal defense system. This Godzilla isn't well defined visually. It looks like a work-in-progress. It looks so unnatural that it resembles a monster in a true sense. It's even bigger, uglier and more destructive than 2014's Godzilla.

This is Japan's emphatic response to Hollywood, claiming its dominance over the monsters genre and setting the stage for more destruction on the big screen.

  • 8.778 on a scale of 1-10.
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Pink (III) (2016)
A riveting thriller of today's darker society
9 October 2016
Often times, those who are nominated to positions of power and influence, bear a false sense of privilege that is misused and goes unchecked. In a city that is known exactly for a large number of such men, women tend to become the victims of misogyny and indignity. 'Pink' is a reflection of this deeply flawed society that even in today's times, instinctively falls back on stereotyping that is baseless. Director Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury's social drama truly becomes a thriller of sorts in its second half when the trial exposes not just the victims and perpetrators but also the society which plays a huge role in determining who the guilty are.

When a casual night out after a rock concert ends up with a bottle smashed into the face of a minister's nephew, the girls who were simply defending themselves from physical molesters have drawn curtains on a wild party life. Constantly in a state of nervous silence and anxious worry, their daily routines soon get affected by threats from the men who seek vengeance for the grave injury to their beloved friend. Minal Arora (Tapsee Pannu), in an impulsive act of rage and self-defense, smashed a bottle onto Rajveer Singh (Angad Bedi) who crossed the lines of decency when they were at a party. Unfortunately for Minal and her friends, Falak (Kirti Kulhari) and Andrea (Andrea Tariang), Rajveer happens to be the nephew of a powerful South Delhi politician. A series of harassment attempts affect their landlord, their workplace and even their casual coffee outings. Thus, even the FIR complaint against the harassment by Rajveer and his accomplices falls on deaf ears at the Police station and soon enough, a counter complaint gets Minal arrested for attempted murder.

These proceedings are keenly observed by one of the neighbors where the girls live and seeing the injustice, offers to take their case even though he had retired as a renowned lawyer due to his mental illness. Deepak Sehgal (Amitabh Bachchan) maybe old and weak but he knows the law better than most and with his more measured approach, he combats Prashant Mehra (Piyush Mishra), the prosecutor whose loud and boisterous accusations reflect the society's flawed mentality and baseless stereotyping. Mehra represents the bigotry of the orthodox Indian society that downplays the role of women and their rightful positions while questioning every action with a perverse and sick assumption. His loud and overpowering arguments are the embarrassing reality of the way many men think of women even in these times in an evolving society. In stark contrast, Deepak Sehgal tries to evaluate how low the society has fallen to mistreat and misjudge 3 innocent women who were victims of the power-hungry perpetrators. Can he help deliver unbiased justice to the girls while challenging the irregularities of society's stigma and prejudices? Pink hits the value system hard and the director keeps the viewer engaged with twists and revelations that keep the verdict hanging till the very end.

Tapsee Pannu and Kirti Kulhari deliver riveting performances as they struggle through their altered realities. Tapsee mumbles her responses as a witness in the box but she portrays her shaken self quite convincingly. Falak is targeted by Mehra's accusations of prostitution and eventually, deviates from the planned defensive lines. Kirti's performance here is gut wrenching and her plight is understandable. Prashant Mehra's aggressive prosecution allows Piyush Mishra to thrive on his excellent dialogue delivery. He matches up to Amitabh Bachchan's commanding presence with his performance, thus charging the scene up for audiences to enjoy. As an aging Deepak Sehgal, Bachchan's portrayal of an acclaimed lawyer is powerful not only with his sheer presence and calculated dialogue delivery, but also the conviction with which he fervently supports the girls. The closing statement by Amitabh Bachchan is among his finest performances in recent times that also highlights the film's underlying theme. It's effect is moving and necessary to shake up the hypocrisy in a flawed society. However, while Mr. Sehgal's decision to fight for the girls comes as celebratory news in the plot line, there's hardly any communication among them in preparation for each hearing. That's precisely where we would've had a better understanding of why they behaved as they did in court. It still provides for riveting courtroom drama but for the kind of overall realism depicted by Chowdhury, this seems like a fundamental interaction that's almost omitted.

Director Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury keeps the accusations louder than the defense and with good reason. The hypocrisy and outdated mentality resonate through the general population and in some cases, out of guilt of being a part of it. Pink is a very important film for today's times and as an influence for the future generations. It depicts the darker reality that we live with but choose to ignore it as it may not affect us directly. It demands a change in the way we think of women, a basic change in mentality that is needed to raise society as a whole and treat each other with respect and draw strict lines when it comes to individuality.

  • 8.955 on a scale of 1-10.
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Rustom (2016)
An entertaining thriller of a sensational crime
28 August 2016
The Nanavati case of 1959 affected several facets of a newly independent India. While the citizens favored the celebrated naval officer who was accused of murdering his wife's illicit partner, the media's sensational coverage of the trial sent people into a frenzy that wouldn't even spare the jury's ability to deliver unbiased justice. The patriotic purity of a naval officer's white uniform was stained with blood but people didn't seem to care. They had already passed their verdict. Director Tinu Suresh Desai uses a lot of dramatic freedom to keep the general audience engaged in the trial's proceedings. For the most part, he deviates from the actual happenings, thus setting the stage for Akshay Kumar to emerge as the nation's most patriotic hero. 'Rustom' is a fictional account of the famous Nanavati v/s State of Maharashtra case that delivers justice in quite an entertaining manner.

Prolonged periods of absence on official duty brought Officer Rustom Pavri's (Akshay Kumar) wife closer to Preeti (Esha Gupta) and her brother Vikram (Arjan Bajwa). Upon his early return from a deployment, Rustom is surprised to find an empty home and soon discovers that Cynthia (Illeana D'Cruz) has been gone for 2 days. His concern turns to suspicion and his instinct leads him to Vikram's home where he sees his wife cheating on him. The following morning, Rustom confronts Cynthia and immediately heads over to Vikram's house before making two crucial stops. One, to pick up a pistol from the ship's armory and two, to make a trunk call to Delhi. Vikram is shot 3 times in his room with Rustom subsequently surrendering himself to the Police. Vincent Lobo (Pawan Malhotra) is the investigating officer, who suspects that there is something amiss about the truth that is in front of him. Citizens pick their sides with Preeti Makhija hiring the best Sindhi lawyer (Sachin Khedekar) to prosecute the accused while the Parsi community, including a local newspaper's editor, rally behind Rustom's defense of himself. The investigators, the city's citizens and the entire nation were embroiled in this sensational case that threatened to stain the patriotic image of a naval officer. While most saw the murderous act as just punishment for Vikram, others would claim that murder is afterall a crime. Popular sentiment would play a major role in the judicial system which was then based on the jury's vote. As the courtroom drama unfolds, truth hinges on perceptions and fabrication that lead to both comedy and tension. There is also a secret concerning national security that will put the pieces of the puzzle together.

With the plot revolving around its protagonist, Akshay Kumar beams in the spotlight in his impeccably white uniform. With barely 2 minutes of action, the majority of his screenplay was with him either listening to accusations and narrations or arguing in his defense. In the courtroom, Sachin Khedekar leans mostly on the comic side with most of his serious accusations falling flat. Anang Desai was an unusual choice to play the Judge but it brought levity to what would have otherwise been a pretty serious court trial. The underrated Pawan Malhotra brings the sincerity and composure that come so natural with his performances and it's great to see him in a meatier role. Arjan Bajwa plays the sleazy rich playboy quite convincingly while Esha Gupta's attempt at being a vixen is simply acceptable. Illeana doesn't seem as comfortable in an altogether serious role when compared to her other outings such as Main tera hero.

Unlike its producer Neeraj Pandey's more serious film-making style, Tinu Desai's Rustom doesn't take itself seriously once we enter the courtroom. While fictionalizing the facts of the 1959 case, the plot liberties taken by writer Vipul Rawal mock the system and media's influence on gullible citizens. Add to that, Tinu Suresh Desai's direction that makes patriotism and old school Bombay appear tacky versions of themselves. The music is merely added to portray the romantic relationship of the Pavris without wasting time in their courtship scenes. But barring these modest attempts of entertaining a more general population, Rustom is an engaging film that covers a sensational crime and its thrilling investigation. Another blockbuster feather in Akshay Kumar's hat that should hopefully keep him away from his crass comedy ventures.

7.899 on a scale of 1-10.
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Suicide Squad (2016)
Not dark or twisted enough but fun nevertheless
17 August 2016
In its 3rd outing of the DC Extended Universe, Warner Brothers too, has realized that its true- to-comicbook superheroes are overwhelmingly appreciated only by their ardent fans while the rest of the world continues to bat an eye to the studio's massive efforts. DC's villains have always been the more twisted, psychotic and vile lot that took years for Batman and other masked vigilantes to overcome. Now, in an effort to fight fire with fire, an U.S. Intelligence Officer assembles an unusual team of incarcerated meta-humans who will serve to protect mankind. David Ayer ('Street Kings', 'End of Watch', 'Fury') attempts to make heroes out of villains with an unusual cast of very capable actors with some intriguing overlapping themes that will tie-in with future DC ventures. The Suicide Squad has nothing to lose and that might just be their strength against a paranormal threat to the world.

Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) insists that the Government must have a team of meta-humans to fight against forces that have greater powers. Col. Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), with his experience in leading black ops teams, heads the squad with a convincing threat to keep them from escaping. Boomerang (Jai Courtney), the snappy Australian has sharp, electric boomerangs and his ruthlessness as his weapons. Killer Croc is best in his element; the dark, damp sewers and holes that others won't venture into. He is also mighty strong. Diablo (Jay Hernandez) remains aloof and concerned about his powers for good reason. He carries the burden of a disturbing past and with enough motivation, can be quite destructive with his fire. Katana (Karen Fukuhara) bears the samurai sword that traps the souls of its victims. While keeping the squad in check, she can wield it to deadly effect. Deadshot (Will Smith) was a solitary hit-man, renowned and feared worldwide for his marksmanship. That was until the Bat caught him. Harley Quinn (Margott Robbie) is the life of the squad with a carefree attitude even in the face of adversity. But the attitude, being jestful, can also be quite unpredictable. She draws her craziness from Mr. J himself whose influence on her has her smitten.

One of the other intended recruits, June Moone (Cara Delevingne), is overpowered by the ancient spirit that shared her physical being. The Enchantress suddenly turns against mankind, deeming them responsible for her imprisonment. Waller calls for the Squad who are yet non trusting of each other but must comply with Flag's command. A combat with a large army of monsters, depicts the incredible talent of Deadshot and following his example, the Suicide Squad sets out on the mission to save the world from the giant beacon pointing at the night sky.

Suicide Squad has an admittedly banal plot. What keeps it interesting is the chemistry between these villains as they grow to appreciate each other's strengths and their unpredictable natures. Then there is Jared Leto's Joker that commands attention for his distinct but wicked take on the most challenging villain. He is no Heath Ledger but his laugh and cold bloodedness make him quite a sinister Joker. There is a lot of action that gives each of the squad members their moment of glory. Yet the predictable nature of the plot somehow prevents the narrative from being dark or evil. David Ayer had a lot of potential to make a really twisted movie with villains at its core but in the end, they end up being a team of meta-humans who need to save the world. The background score is a lot of fun with several re-tuned classics. The special effects suit the capabilities of the characters in action sequences while the make-up team deserves a special mention for the exemplary work with the Joker, Killer Croc, Enchantress, Diablo and Harley Quinn. The very objective of this Squad is suicidal. By putting themselves on the line, they can get their terms in prison reduced. They have the capability to overcome great odds even when the world views them negatively. Such is the case with DC's films and its enthusiasts will enjoy Suicide Squad more so for its integration with the Extended Universe.

7.837 on a scale of 1-10.
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Not as boldly but certainly beyond
1 August 2016
In the final frontier, the crewmembers of U.S.S. Enterprise have spent over half of their mission's duration exploring new worlds, seeking out new civilizations and extending the Federation's influence into deep space at warp speed. Each voyage however, seems episodic to Captain Kirk now and rightly so. Akin to many of the TV series' loopholes, the third adventure of the J.J. Abrams revived 'Star Trek' attempts to go beyond general logic. But that is what Justin Lin ('Fast & Furious' series) brings on the creative table as a trekkie. He is furious with the pace and extravagant with the action. The special effects depicting the starships, the new Federation city and nebulae are the best the franchise has offered. The emotional or mental investment maybe limited here compared to another stars franchise but rest assured that it is an enthralling experience at the cinema.

When a diplomatic mission with an eccentric race goes awry, the Enterprise heads to the starbase Yorktown, a spectacular creation by the special effects team, where the crew disembarks to regroup with their families and find some respite from their arduous voyage. Suddenly, a pod carrying a survivor from a stranded ship within a nearby nebula reaches Yorktown and requests aid from the starfleet. Convinced about his ship's exceptional navigational technology and his crew's dedication, James Kirk (Chris Pine) leads the rescue aboard the Enterprise and after passing through the daunting nebula, they detect a massive ship in the planet Altamid's orbit. They soon realize that the ship is actually a coordinated swarm of smaller ships that soon target the integral parts of the Enterprise. Shocked by the ambush and reluctant to accept defeat, the Captain orders his crew to abandon ship and as he escapes on a pod, he witnesses the destruction of his beloved starship that soon descends violently into the planet's atmosphere.

The comprehensive attack was led by Krall (Idris Elba), who captured the surviving crewmembers while the officers on the deck were split into pairs before escaping. Bones (Karl Urban) treats the wounds of an injured Spock (Zachary Quinto) and the real intentions that led to Spock's disrupted relationship with Uhura (Zoe Saldana) are revealed. They yet battle each other at wits and Karl Urban makes it quite entertaining. Captain Kirk and Chekov (Anton Yelchin) learn that the attack was all a well planned ambush to obtain a world conquering relic, the Abronath, that Kirk had acquired during the failed diplomatic mission. Meanwhile, Montgomery Scott (Simon Pegg) is found by Jaylah (Sofia Boutella), a survivor of a previous attack by Krall's forces, who then brings him to her hideout which is an old, crashed U.S.S. Franklin. Along with Jaylah's resourcefulness, Kirk and the others have to plan a daring rescue of the crewmembers and prevent Krall from executing his malicious plan. Simple enough, considering the individual capabilities but Krall has already departed with the swarm of ships towards the nebula with a destructive agenda. It will take some incredulous motorcycle riding on an alien planet, some daring stunt-work aboard a starship, the Beastie Boys and some gravity defying fist fight to disrupt Krall's plans but the crew is prepared with all that and more.

Chris Pine portrays a matured James Kirk who has yet to find a mission to relate to for the rest of his life. Yet, he is always keen on embarking on an adventurous voyage, risking his life but with absolute certainty that he will emerge victorious in his cause. His dynamic with Spock delineates far more trust and respect for each other's talents and skills. Zachary Quinto has always been the lucid, logical stronghold of the franchise who can clearly distinguish between right and wrong. Yet, we see Spock now evolving into a character challenged with decisions that remain in the grey area. Simon Pegg's Scotty is frustrated with Kirk's decisions to push the ship beyond its capabilities but with Jaylah by his side, he finds renewed enthusiasm to innovate and fix things. Sofia's Jaylah on the other hand, adds a fun new character to the franchise that was rather male dominated except for Zoe Saldana's despondent Uhura. Karl Urban is in perpetual disbelief with Kirk's adventurous ideas but he lends a helping hand to Spock in dire circumstances. It all makes him the most entertaining crewmember in Beyond. The late Anton Yelchin engages in more action sequences than ever before while he fixes the ship's broken parts and greets the Captain on the bridge. His spontaneous wit and easy likable performance will be sorely missed. Finally, Idris Elba is his recognizable self outside the prosthetic makeup for some time and he completely dominates the scene then, but there was perhaps too much of an expressionless Krall.

Justin Lin's approach to Star Trek involves some breathtaking visual effects that bring the imaginative Yorktown to life and the details of the Enterprise's structure as it is gradually destroyed piece by piece. The action is frenetic and highly engaging because he ensures that we have invested in the characters involved in the sequence. There is a certain old school style that he has also adopted that showcases more hand-to-hand combat, blasting music through space and keeping the action really intense even though incredulous on many occasions. The action may be the strength and weakness of this one. In remarkable contrast, Lin also manages to get deeper into the chemistry between the crewmembers and the highlight is the poignant scene when Spock stares at a photograph that will bring bitter joy to ardent fans. It's quite a shame that the general interest in this franchise has fallen to such lower levels as Star Trek Beyond truly makes the case for the most fun in the final frontier.

8.114 on a scale of 1-10.
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Finding Dory (2016)
Found a true gem
11 July 2016
We return to the Great Barrier Reef, thirteen years after Pixar's marine adventure with Nemo and friends with the story's focus now shifting to that forgetful blue tang, Dory. Co-directed and co- written by Andrew Stanton ('A Bug's life', 'Finding Nemo', 'Wall-E') and Angus MacLane, both accomplished Pixar films' creative geniuses, Dory's story is more a complementary one rather than a sequel. It's richer, funnier, wackier and lightly emotional with our investment in its animated characters that are nimbly voiced by capable actors. Like every Pixar film, Finding Dory too has its lessons for life for children and adults alike and this is especially, an unforgettable one.

An adoryble young Dory is nurtured and protected by her loving parents who train her to cope with her 'short term memory loss' issue but there was always that lingering fear that she would forget it all and wander away from them unknowingly. The inevitable thus happened and now, a year after Nemo was found, Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) wanders away as usual but this time, farther away from Marlin and Nemo until she revives a distant memory of her parents. She relates that to her home being in the Jewel of Morro Bay which of course, was on the other side of the great ocean. Riding on the turtles, they embark on the California current in search of Dory's parents as they encounter various creatures including Hank (Ed O'Neill) the Septopus, who serves as Dory's guide and savior at the Marine Life Institute even though with a vested interest, Destiny the whale shark who was Dory's pipe-mate, Bailey the Beluga whale that has some mutant-like sonar senses, the outrageously funny sea lions and their eccentric bird friend who is just….. well, odd.

Hank is truly the hero here with extensible tentacles that can ride strollers, pick up and transfer items including Dory, out of one peril to the next. There is even an incredible talent he possesses that shapes the climax in the most exciting, incredulous manner that only Pixar can pull off. Marlin and Nemo get separated early on from Dory and have their own entertaining adventures in their search for her. Their encounter with the hilarious sea lions and the awkward seabird is the funniest scene of the year. On the other hand, Dory's journey to find her home engages many of her friends and acquaintances with progress being made along the razor's edge for the most part. Dory's search for her parents and the clownfish duo's search for her happen at a frantic pace that rarely spares a breather while we are completely amazed by the beauty of the world that they swim, hop or fly in.

There isn't a villain in 'Finding Dory'. Just like most Pixar films, there are challenges upon challenges in a journey that teach many of us some simple lessons while creating those everlasting memories with impressionable characters against a richer canvas. Directors Stanton and MacLane have thus tackled the short term memory loss problem with a lovable little Dory and depicted it as a frustrating element as she grows up and embarks upon her quest for home-coming. As she suffers from low self esteem due to her memory, she never loses the will to just keep swimming and that, is a brilliantly crafted transition that hits all the emotional cords. Besides, the way the multitude of creatures offer help is also showcasing the goodness that adds to the film's charm for both children and adults alike. Those elements are impeccably enhanced by the mesmerizing animation of the imaginative world underwater. From the various types of fish and sea creatures to the coral reefs, plants and Dory's big round eyes.

Pixar just keeps breaking new ground in animation and with Dory, they've taken us through a memorable journey of a forgetful fish and her friends in a timeless tale that has life's essential learnings, charming characters that are voiced by a brilliant cast and in the end, the incredible entertainment that has brought several 'awwww' reactions, laughs, hysteria and relief after a daring escape from a peril. 'Finding Dory' will go down as one of the best Pixar films and animated entertainers but one must also applaud the brief opening clip that showcased some striking animation that was completely real-looking. 'Piper' is not to be missed.

9.211 on a scale of 1-10.
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They are uniting for good....
8 June 2016
Ten years after the Paris peace accords, Professor Charles Xavier has recruited several students at his special school with the aim to establish it as the home for humans and mutants alike as they explore their strengths and grow together in harmony. But deep in the dark ruins of Cairo, an ancient power, En Sabah Nur has been awakened after millennia and has realized that the new unrelatable world needs to be destroyed so he can establish a new order. Deemed to be the very first mutant and the all powerful one, Apocalypse needed his four horsemen to pursue his devastating plans. The students at the Xavier school must now find within them, a way to harness their powers and use them to stop the apocalypse. The students must now become the X-Men.

Erik (Michael Fassbender) lives a secluded life with his wife and daughter, concealing his powers while working in a foundry where one day, he is forced to use them to prevent an accident. The incident doesn't go unnoticed by his co-workers who report it to the authorities. An unfortunate encounter drives Erik mad with rage and his resulting vulnerability is soon exploited by Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac), who recruits him as his fourth horseman after Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Angel (Ben Hardy) and Psylocke (Olivia Munn). In a powerful display of his newly enhanced powers, Magneto desecrates the site of Auschwitz and threatens to build a new world for Apocalypse. Meanwhile, Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) and Alex Summers/Havok have been busy recruiting mutants such as Kurt/Nightcrawler and Scott Summers/Cyclops (Tye Sheridan). Also coming to their aid in the nick of time is Quicksilver/Peter Maximoff (Evan Peters), who steals the show each time he makes a run for it. Their sanctuary is compromised as Apocalypse learns about Charles' powers and kidnaps him to aid in his plan for gathering mutants across the globe. In the aftermath of the explosion, Hank, Mystique and Peter are taken captive by the Military, leaving Scott, Kurt and Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) in their hot pursuit. The rescue effort was doomed if it wasn't for the accidental release of Weapon X, that unknowingly aided in their escape from the facility.

Magneto's control of Earth's poles causes widespread destruction, killing millions as En Sabah Nur almost enslaves Charles to his will. But it's Jean's psychic powers that find the call for help from her Professor and along with the young fighters and new recruits, they race to prevent Magneto and Apocalypse from causing Earth's total annihilation.

Cyclops has an engaging introduction to the team and Tye portrays the fear of his uncontrollable powers in a credible manner. Nightcrawler always has a freaked out look but is entertaining while Beast is almost underplayed in his role. Olivia Munn's brief presence has a lot of intrigue still remaining about her origins and powers of being Psylocke. Alexandra plays a young, uncertain Storm who isn't evil enough yet to choose a permanent side. Evan Peters is as witty as he is hasty and Quicksilver is by far a show stealer when on-screen. Oscar Isaac's villain isn't the all-powerful as they hyped him up to be. His God-like powers were seldom on display to be ascertained as the biggest threat to superheroes, let alone break away from the cliché of apocalyptic villains who want to recreate the world. Mystique had the entire world focusing on her eccentricity after being exposed in Paris and Jennifer Lawrence shows her reservations very well. Her performance is deliberately underplayed but she holds her position as Charles' favorite by her own merits. Michael Fassbender displays the torment and inner rage that Magneto experiences with a lot of sincerity, making it an outstanding performance as a villain. His reluctance to join his friend's school is deeply rooted in his suspicion of humans who have caused most of his tragedies. James McAvoy is extremely likable as Prof Xavier because he quite naturally charms his righteousness through to us while showing genuine care for both mutants and humans. Sophie Turner's Jean Grey surprisingly ends up being the highlight of the film and not because of her character's importance in saving the day each time. She has invested in the character that's learning to unleash her powers with a lot of reluctance at first and then realizing her true potential. She is a far better Jean Grey than her predecessor and with Mystique by her side, her development should get a lot more exciting.

Director Bryan Singer (several X-Men films) is more than familiar with character introductions, mega villains and optimizing CGI to aid his storytelling and action. Yet, the film does lose the gravity of a major villain who was supposed to be the greatest nemesis of the X-Men. To see him so grossly under-utilized with just a handful of action scenes and a lot more of clichéd dialogues is quite disappointing.

Apocalypse may not be the best X-Men film to date but it sure is as fun, exciting and entertaining as the best of them. What it lacks in, it makes up for in the attributes of its characters who are either too righteous or perfectly balanced now to fall on either side.

8.513 on a scale of 1-10.
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Accountability of superheroes and precarious conflicts
16 May 2016
Ultron was Tony Stark's innovation that was meant to withstand future onslaughts from the threats of the Universe. However, due to the maligned nature of Loki's sceptre, the Age of Ultron wreaked havoc on Sokovia, while the Avengers scrambled to prevent collateral damage as the city was raised to the skies and yet, not everyone could be saved. Nations become suspicious of the unchecked powers of Earth's mightiest heroes and those who lost their families due to their actions, seek to avenge them. Thus, 'Civil War' is partly an aftermath of 'Age of Ultron' and partly a follow-up to 'Captain America: Winter Soldier' mainly due to Bucky's presence. The Russo brothers enter the 3rd phase of MCU and stick to the formula that has worked wonders for Disney/Marvel in keeping with a brighter, entertaining tone.

We start in 1991, with Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) being sent on a mission to retrieve a serum from a car. The driver of the car isn't revealed quite yet but that proves to be quite a twist at the very end. Current day in Nigeria, a group of Avengers disrupt Brock Rumlow's (Frank Grillo) attempt to steal a bio weapon. Their encounter leads to Rumlow detonating an explosive under his vest and Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) directing its effects away from the busy marketplace. Unfortunately, it leads to the death of several humanitarian workers from Wakanda who were in the building nearby. Meanwhile, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) reveals his impressive sample of future technologies to M.I.T. students and generously offers to fund all of their research projects. There, he meets a grieving mother who lost her son in Sokovia, reminding Stark of the failures and uncontrolled powers of the superheroes.

Too much damage has been done even with their best intentions and efforts. Accountability was thus proposed by a United Nations panel through the Sokovia Accords that would control their actions. US Secretary of State, Ross convinces them of no other way but to sign in its favor. Tony agrees due to his bad decisions and experiences, Captain (Chris Evans) disagrees because of his suspicion of those who rule with agendas. One prefers accountability by external authority while the other prefers the freedom to act as he assumes that the safest hands are still their own.

The Accords themselves weren't much to quarrel over since the scenario was inevitable but it's the explosion at the UN Conference in Vienna that really tears them apart. The Wakandan King, who was a strong proponent of the Accords, perishes in the attack and his son T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) is determined to bring the suspect to justice. The suspect being the Winter Soldier. Automatically, Cap saves his bro-friend Bucky on every attack from the government, Ironman and T'Challa's mysterious form of Black Panther. This exciting introduction of a powerful warrior expands the might of the Avengers in general with his formidable abilities and skills. Thereafter, it was upon Stark and Cap Rogers to recruit new members and convince existing ones to take a moral stance in their favor. To make things even, we have Spiderman on team Ironman and Ant- Man on team Cap. Their action sequences are immense fun and Tom Holland's teenage Spider-boy is nimble, agile although quite talkative like his character in the comics. Paul Rudd's Ant-Man takes up some surprising form and plays a big role in the airport fight. This seemingly half hour-ish sequence at a German airport is certainly the film's highlight and showdown of the two teams that is regarded as Civil War.

The plot drags on further as Stark investigates the actual events that transpired before Cap's escape with the Winter Soldier and his findings reveal a deeper ploy by Zemo (Daniel Bruhl) to divide them even further. His revelation of the 1991 incident involving the Winter Soldier opens up traumatic wounds for Stark and it leads them into a more serious combat that breaks the trust between Cap and Ironman. The heaviness of a divided team of superheroes only bears down on us thereafter and it took the Russo brothers over 2 hours 20 minutes to convince us. The motivations for many of the characters remain a bit casual for them to really take sides and stand against their fellow Avengers. Scarlett deserves a Black Widow movie but she's losing the grip on her audience as Natasha doesn't have much influence over others. Black Panther's only reason for joining Ironman is to take down Bucky and Boseman is a brilliant T'Challa. Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) is just inconvenienced with all this while Falcon (Anthony Mackie) gets adventurous in his second outing with the Cap. War Machine (Cheadle) represents the Government's interests and is close enough to Stark to influence his decisions. Vision (Paul Bettany) spends the entire airport sequence trying to keep Wanda away from harming anyone and without his superhero suit, looks quite weird adorning a sweater. Spider-Man is just stoked to be called upon by Mr. Stark and Tom Holland portrays the excitement to showcase his powers and the fear of Aunt May discovering them, quite naturally. Ant-Man is just happy to be among his heroes and Paul Rudd brings the credibility of a common guy honored to be working with his heroes. But again, this theme has worked well for Marvel and shall continue to do so because the general audience prefers the levity with the action.

'Civil War' does less to lead up to the upcoming Infinity Wars and more to introduce new characters and reboots. In the absence of Thor, who is busy with far greater threats, the stakes aren't high enough for the Avengers right now but they do need to keep themselves in check, even if through an international panel and they must resolve their unsettled differences if they want to be the Earth's mightiest heroes.

8.588 on a scale of 1-10.
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Nostalgia on a modern canvas
30 April 2016
Time and again, every story needs to be retold. Every legend, reborn and every nostalgic memory, rekindled. Rudyard Kipling's monumental story about a human infant raised among wolves was so inspirational that it took the form of multiple comic book editions, TV cartoon series and of course a Hollywood blockbuster made by none other than the weaver of magical dreams, Disney. Jon Favreau ('Elf', 'Ironman', 'Chef') revisits this timeless classic with rich characters supported vocally by an astounding cast and the most optimum use of contemporary digital effects since 'Avatar'. Astonishingly created in studios of Los Angeles, 'The Jungle Book' is no longer a kid's adventure but a young adult's entertainer. The harsh Indian summer leads to the establishment of the water truce in the jungle when all animals must share the scarce water resources and predators cannot threaten their prey. The wolf pack maintains the order around the pond, only to be disrupted by the menacing entry of Sher Khan. The intimidating, scar-faced tiger picks up an unusual scent and suspects it to be that of a creature whose type caused his injuries many years ago. The wolves protect Mowgli this time but may not be able to do so in the future. Discovered by Bagheera, the black panther, raised by the wolf pack and foster mother Raksha, the man-cub had to forsake his ties for the safety of the pack itself and find his own people outside the vast jungle's boundaries. After encountering various threats including Sher Khan himself, Kaa the conniving python and King Louie in the ancient ruins, Mowgli finds new companionship in Baloo the lazy but friendly bear. After helping him hoard for his tropical winter with all the honey he can collect with his human tricks, Mowgli must continue on to his discovery of the man village and find sanctuary with his kind. But Sher Khan's atrocities won't cease and someone needs to stop him before more creatures get killed by him.

The man cub has come of age along with the visual effects technology that created the entire jungle around him with the very life-like creatures. Favreau's Mowgli (Neel Sethi) isn't the innocent man-cub that is discovering every aspect of life. He is more like today's adolescent who is confident about his abilities (at times, overly so) and doesn't consider himself inferior in any way. Neel's performance embodies that aspect and his polite yet snarky behavior makes him relatable to today's generation. His performance is especially commendable because he was the only living being among the acting cast. Ben Kingsley's voice for Bagheera personifies him being the mentor, guide and principal protector of Mowgli. Bill Murray distinctly adds the right amount of humor and innocent mischief behind Baloo who also sings along to 'the bare necessities'. Lupita Nyong'o voices the concerned, caring and protective wolf-mother Raksha in the most credible manner while Scarlett Johansson's cunning Kaa creepily hisses Mowgli into her clutches. We do wish there was more of her. Christopher Walken has a brooding presence as King Louie, the Gigantopithecus. He is funny, commanding and yet daunting, even after he sings 'I wanna be like you'. But the most captivating voice behind a lead character is that of Idris Alba lending his deep, menacing evil to Sher Khan. Apart from the sudden and violent encounters involving the bruised tiger, it's Idris' voice that sends chills down one's spine. This ensemble cast just brings CGI characters to life with their interpretations and of course, the exemplary work of the visual effects.

Jon Favreau moves through his episodic storytelling quite swiftly. He creates thrills with some shocking violence which is at times, deserving the PG certification. Other times, he seems to draw inspiration from the Hobbit series with King Louie moving around the temple's halls like Smaug the dragon does in Erebor around Bilbo. The climactic scene within the inflamed forest also reminds one of the stand-off between the Hobbits and Orcs at the end of The Hobbit. However, the editing remains crisp, with the right amount of violence, humor, songs and fun in the jungle. Nostalgia certainly kicks in with the familiarity of the popular story and its retelling on a much richer canvas deserves a viewing. Galvanized critics might be overwhelmed but for the rest of us, The Jungle Book is a fun watch and an exciting start to something new.

-8.331 on a scale of 1-10.
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If Batman is the film's conscience, Superman is its struggle.
4 April 2016
Twenty years in Gotham as a crime fighting vigilante have brought more greyness for Bruce Wayne than just his hair. Amid glimpses of his burnt ancestral manor, memories of his slayed partner, insomnia due to nightmares, Alfred's criticism of him leading a life of solitude and his ruthless delivery of justice upon criminals, the ambiguity of Batman's moral stance quickly forms the film's conscience. It's a return to the gritty drama of the DC comics involving powerful politicians, twisted Businessmen and other-worldly beings that become villains for the righteous heroes. Zack Snyder ('300', 'Watchmen', 'Man of Steel') tests the heroism in the protagonists by pitting them against each other. Batman's brutal justice is questioned by a Daily Planet reporter whose alter- ego struggles to justify his act of good to skeptical citizens who only measure his actions by the collateral damage it causes. The greatest gladiator showdown thus features the more seasoned yet angrier Bat of Gotham vs the God-like Son of Krypton whose tremendous power leads to distrust among the very humans he is trying to protect. The clouds burst over Metropolis and Gotham with resounding thunder against the backdrop of a destroyed part of the city as Zack Snyder's 'Dawn of Justice' explodes with brute force.

18 months ago, chaos and destruction ensued in Metropolis during the battle against General Zod. Unaware of the forces at play and their intentions, the citizens and Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) had a cynical approach to their savior. Mankind was thus introduced to the Superman. Burdened by the trauma of his childhood losses and frustrated with decades of crime fighting, Bruce Wayne is exhausted. Yet he remains determined to get to the bottom of Lex Luthor's dealings with a weapons trafficker and the code white Portuguese. This is when he is outwitted by the mysterious Diana Prince and the two end up with Luthor's secret files revealing the existence of a few metahumans. Meanwhile, the Man of Steel (Henry Cavill) busies himself saving lives across the globe. On one such instance, he rescues Lois Lane (Amy Adams) from African mercenaries, only to be framed for killing several innocent villagers. This brings him to a Senate hearing that seeks to limit his powers. For some, he is a symbol of hope for the lives he saved and for others including Bruce, he is a being whose limitless powers need to be in check. A clear distinction in each hero's approach leads to a divided stand which is connivingly manipulated into hatred by Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg). Annoyed by the Bat's meddling in his own affairs, he orchestrates the great Gladiator match while exposing Superman's weakness to his advantage. On a stormy night in Gotham and Metropolis, the epic showdown includes an all new Bat-suit, kryptonite, Martha, a demonic force created for annihilation and of course, Wonder Woman. This, is also what DC comics were all about. Absolute mayhem.

David Goyer, who co-wrote Nolan's Batman trilogy, retains the elements of darkness, frustration and anger in this Batman but a more ruthless version of him. This knight of Gotham has endured enough evil for two decades to now brand all goons and thereby intimidate criminals. In contrast, the alien superhero has come to terms with his identity that shall bear a significant responsibility to save mankind. Yet the opinion of a few powerful individuals is more cynical and that adds another burden upon the red cape. Snyder captures the Batman in gritty noir fashion whereas Superman's globally heroic deeds are more epic.

The action is bolstered by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL's rousing score and along with some exemplary visual effects that keep the characters closer to their comic roots, Snyder just throws everything at the audience till it overwhelms.

Henry Cavill gets more absorbed into Superman's responsibility but finds himself at the crossroads of being a savior and a destructive force. The latter, is of course the result of manipulation and misunderstanding but the conflicted reception of him on Earth still weighs down heavily on him even though Martha (Diane Lane) suggested that he didn't owe the world a thing. In understanding the character's struggles, Cavill is by far, the best Superman to wear the cape. Jesse Eisenberg was an unlikely choice for the bald Lex Luthor we are used to seeing but as his younger version, his take of the psychotic, astute and manipulative millionaire is fun and lively. Amy Adams' Lois Lane has come to realize that fighting evil is her way of life as well now but we may not want Amy being involved in a superhero fight again. People were quite literally apprehensive about what Ben Affleck would do to their beloved Batman but he has pulled it off in the most convincing manner. As an ageing, exhausted and troubled vigilante, Affleck showcases a very different Batman and fits into those big shoes with remarkable ease. By far, the most dynamic entry and mesmerizing revelation has been that of Gal Gadot's Diana Prince/Wonder Woman. She is a badass warrior who is deemed the most powerful of them all and it's her theme and entry that will have you whistling and cheering with excitement. Gal was a fantastic choice for such a powerful character and it will be exciting to witness her abilities in the future.

If Batman is the film's conscience, Superman is its struggle. Zack Snyder distinctly creates sides for you to choose including your option to love or hate his decisions. Subtlety was never an option for this epic clash. With numerous references and clues to the big DC Universe, he sets the right tone with a more serious, gritty and cynical look at the heroes who make sacrifices to save mankind but are constantly criticized for the effect of their actions. Stop being the cynical critic. Be the comic book fan and you will enjoy this adaptation in every way.

9.113 on a scale of 1-10.
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Deadpool (2016)
A mouthful of a hero to expand the Marvel Universe
8 March 2016
Marvel's ever expanding Universe introduces us to an unlikely hero. Almost as a mockery of superheroes, this wisecracking, re-generating mutant will not shut the @#$% up and will randomly digress into thinking about his kitchen stove in the midst of a car crash. His moral compass is broken to an extent where he disregards human life and ignores collateral damage caused by his actions. The distinction between good and evil is blurry to him but all this doesn't quite make him an anti-hero. He still has a freakishly loving girl and a villain who is British enough to be one. Deadpool's origin story doesn't break new ground. Nor does his emergence in the Marvel Universe make it any easier to prevent Thanos from destroying the Universe and yet, debutant Director Tim Miller does get a few things strikingly right which make Deadpool an incredibly fun, must watch action film.

Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) is a mercenary who crossed paths with some dirty folk and then got even dirtier with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) for months at a stretch. Soon he realizes that he is diagnosed with cancer and that his only remote hope is to be a part of a medical experiment that involves mutant genes. We know how that goes.... The resulting hideous face needed a mask and a body suit that ended up being red, just so the enemies wouldn't see him bleeding. Embarrassed by his condition, Wade chooses to live with a blind old lady and not confront Vanessa till he forces Ajax (Ed Skrein), the mad scientist who created this accidental mutation, to reverse the adverse effect. With this origin story reflected upon in the middle of an intensely gory action sequence, Deadpool reverts our attention back to his gruesome ways as he pursues Ajax's convoy and practically decimates the scene. Just as he is about to torture Ajax, Colossus and the punk teen named Negasonic Teenage Warhead from Prof. Xavier's University intervene and try to arrest Wade as Ajax sees the right opportunity to escape. In the movie's timeline, all of this occurs in the first fight sequence itself with a couple of lengthy flashbacks. Unable to forget his love for Vanessa, he gathers the courage to face her at her workplace, only to realize that Ajax had kidnapped her just then. Wade will need the help of a lot of ammunition, Colossus and the Teenage Warhead to stand a chance against Ajax's forces that include Angel Dust (Gina Carano). The finale atop the Helicarrier has all of them battling with Marvel's special effects galore as Deadpool still doesn't stop yapping away with his punchlines.

The usual origin story of the unlikely superhero doesn't quite surprise anyone. What the film instead depends on is the narrative through the fourth wall, the snark comments, unabashed action that is both gory and gruesome, and the naughty yet petulant romance that really makes a badass like Deadpool genuinely care about someone.

It finally seems like Ryan Reynolds has a possible franchise that could be his career. He enjoys the sarcasm and wit while his character transitions through several phases. The carefree attitude and fickle behavior are what make Deadpool so enjoyable and Reynolds has pretty much nailed it. Morena Baccarin not only looks gorgeous but plays the naughty escort with convincing charm. She can certainly combat Wade's innuendos with effective volleys. Ed Skrein (Transporter Refueled and 'Dario Naharis') is matched in mutant powers but his character falls short of an evil that is worth despising or respecting. Perhaps a more powerful nemesis will follow this origin story that had a lot more to introduce than just a battle against evil.

Tim Miller and his writers haven't reinvented the genre but they certainly have re-engineered a tired concept that involves a multitude of characters and special effects over some witty dialogue and R-rated action to enhance the character's appeal. Deadpool will leave you entertained like no other superhero can. If it all comes down to Earth's saviors having to send an emissary to negotiate with the arch enemy, Deadpool will be a mouthful of a hero who might just save the day...... if he cares enough.

  • 8.776 on a scale of 1-10.
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Airlift (2016)
Akshay Kumar proves his caliber as a hero that one can relate to
20 February 2016
At the end of each year, audiences have been subjected to a crude and bizarre concoction of preposterous ideas that are formulated in Rohit Shetty's head and somehow, the masses just cannot get enough of it. But silently, as though compensating for such frivolous cinema, there has been one annual film starring Akshay Kumar that has some realism, patriotism, focused storyline and some solid performances. With 'Special 26', 'Holiday', 'Baby' and now with 'Airlift', Akshay Kumar proves his caliber as a hero that one can relate to and not the over-the-top nonsense portrayed in a vast majority of action films these days. Directed by Raja Krishna Menon, Airlift relives the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 that threatened 170,000 Indian residents who left their homeland for better opportunities but were then stuck in a land without much of an identity. Now, it is up to one man to let go of his selfish motives and guarantee the security of his fellow countrymen in trying times as the Iraqi forces become more unpredictable.

A brief intro and a song later, we are directly in the middle of the Iraqi forces storming into Kuwait city. While the locals get brutally executed by Saddam's fanatic army, the sub-continent population faces uncertainty and is constantly threatened even though they may not be identified as Kuwaitis. Realizing that his property, assets and family are at stake all of a sudden, businessman Ranjit Katyal (Akshay Kumar) decides to find a refuge for his company's workers while pleading for protection from a fickle Iraqi General. In no time, the office space is crowded with not just his workers but also their friends and family. With supplies running low, he desperately seeks to arrange for food and shelter for a few thousand and soon enough, the bigger refuge area now camps over 150,000 Indians due to Katyal's tireless efforts. While this arrangement provides some temporary relief, everybody is on the edge because of the anarchy outside their doors. In the absence and negligence of the local government, Katyal reaches out to officials in New Delhi to enable a rescue from the war zone but the bureaucracy and nonchalance from the babus left their fates hanging in the hands of a dangerous regime. There was but one last hope for Ranjit; to lead them all to Amman, Jordan through an arduous journey and uncertainty of border crossings, while an official in New Delhi sought to mobilize alliances and volunteers to aid a rescue operation.

Airlift contains some pretty powerful moments that depict the trauma and stress during the invasion. The intensity of the first encounter between Iraqi soldiers and Ranjit, the traumatic drive through streets filled with military executing Kuwaitis outside their homes, the erratic behavior of Iraqi soldiers as they raid the camp and the border crossing through Iraq were effective in portraying the emotional turmoil of the numerous individuals who faced those dangers. There are light shades of patriotism that don't follow the #nationalism falseness that is rampant in current times. There are moments of heroism defined by one's actions towards a common good, through selfless deeds that make Ranjit's character even more likable.

Akshay Kumar delivers a powerful yet subdued performance, just like he does every year in that one exceptional film. This time however, his acting is much more composed and thoughtful. With a sound understanding of the character and situations, he is able to deliver one of his career best acts. Nimrat Kaur has one stellar scene where she defends her husband's deeds of bravado that get misunderstood by an idiot in their company. The lashing she verbally delivers is far more potent than any other form of rebuttal. Purab Kohli is excellent too in his supporting role as he fights his tragedies in the face of danger that threatens the thousands around him.

Soch na sake is a typical Arijit Singh melody, dil cheez tujhe dedi is of course inspired by Khaled's didi from yesteryear's while tu bhoola jise is deeply inspiring with its patriotic theme and is beautifully sung by Amaal Malik and KK. Raja Krishna Menon has not only achieved box office success for an honest film but also some well deserved acclaim for portraying true events with the right intention of reflecting upon the sacrifices made and hardships faced by thousands of Indians. Ranjit Katyal is a fictionalized version of the true heroes who stood up back then to save several who lost their identities in times of war. He brought them back home in troubled times, thus reflecting a powerful characteristic of human nature and Akshay Kumar, makes it all the more real.

  • 9.002 on a scale of 1-10.
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The Revenant (2015)
Cold, harsh and lonely tale of survival
3 February 2016
In the frigid wilderness of the Dakotas, a band of frontiersmen who gather pelts (animal skins) for a living, are suddenly ambushed by a Native American tribe with many being brutally slaughtered while the rest escape on a boat. This opening sequence of Alejandro Iñárritu's adaptation of Michael Punke's 'The Revenant' is among the most thrilling since The Gladiator's opening. This tale of one animal trapper's horrifying experiences in the harshest of environments is as tedious and unforgiving as the surrounding environment and it forms the perfect allurement for juries of various award ceremonies who dig the silent, solitary performers. This might indeed be Leonardo DiCaprio's long awaited Oscar but certainly not the most deserving one.

After narrowly escaping the ruthless onslaught from the natives, the frontiersmen decide to head to their outpost, Fort Kiowa. Unfortunately though, in a brutal encounter with a mother grizzly bear, Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is gravely injured, making the group's journey a laborious task. The Captain offers a reward to those who would take the responsibility to bring Glass to the Fort and so his son Hawk, Bridger (Will Poulter) and the ever confrontational Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) drag Glass over ice and hills until greed, apathy and selfishness within Fitzgerald leave Glass alone in the wilderness with barely the ability to walk. Apart from the bone chilling weather and lack of food, he must now desperately find shelter from the Arikara tribe. The fates of every character are linked. The tribe's chief is in pursuit of his kidnapped daughter Powaqa which leads to them crossing paths with Glass' company. Fitzgerald was once scalped by some natives and his undying hatred for them leads him to mercilessly murder Hawk. Glass, though helpless for much of the movie is driven by rage and the need for retribution which turns into a desperate hunt when his company discovers Fitzgerald's betrayal.

The sun never shines with hope for anyone in the story. From diving into the icy river full of rapids to finding shelter inside a dead horse's carcass, Glass faces nature's harshness as he takes each step in perpetual agony resulting from his injuries. Being mauled by a ferocious bear can never lead to a speedy recovery but in 1823, being abandoned for the dead, it just makes things a bit more challenging.

There is no doubt that Leo's performance showcases a solid commitment that anchors the film firmly. However, with fewer dialogues than any of his movies to-date, his silent performance strongly indicates all but one emotion; anguish. For over 2 hours, we are subjected to a helpless, abandoned and weak Hugh Glass who trudges along gradually, with barely the resolve to help overcome his pain. The depth of his coldness is second to that of his surroundings that are harsh and brutal to any survivor let alone one who was mauled by a grizzly. At times, his survival is aimless and desperate while there are subdued emotions portraying his desire for vengeance. Prolonged sequences of such dullness can be engaging for serious cinema enthusiasts but the rest will have to be satisfied with the stunning white backdrop of Canada and Argentina that are supposed to match Dakota and Montana back in the day. While this must've been an enormous challenge for Leo as an actor in those harsh environments, it certainly isn't his best show. Muttering, yelling and grunting lack the appeal of powerful dialogue delivery that Leo is renowned for. Tom Hardy is impressive as the cunning betrayer and with his thick accent and rough appearance, is even difficult to identify.

Director Iñárritu's vision for The Revenant was very personal even though it drew inspiration from Michael Punke's novel. The opening sequence involving the raid by the natives, the grizzly attack, the sweeping shots of mountain ranges, blizzard conditions and even close ups of the actors emoting make for some powerful narrative. Filming during particular hours in the day just for a grim effect is the hallmark of a passionate filmmaker and Iñárritu deserves the nomination for his efforts. However, his overlong, tedious, cold and savage tale of survival and determined vengeance must rather make way for the survivor on another planet that offered more inspiration and entertainment.

  • 7.431 on a scale of 1-10.
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Wazir (I) (2016)
Riveting thriller with powerful performances
17 January 2016
In the times when intellectual films are an increasing rarity in the Indian film industry, there are certain established filmmakers one can depend on for a brief respite from those dilwale people. Using metaphors based on the game of chess, two protagonists try to overcome their personal tragedies while planning their next move against a growing nemesis that threatens their plan for retribution. 'Wazir' is a sharp thriller that engages the viewer with a plot that only gradually unravels and with consistently strong performances by its lead stars Amitabh Bachchan and Farhan Akhtar. Produced and co-written by Vidhu Vinod Chopra, this game of astute minds is directed by Bijoy Nambiar, whose past films were as forgettable as India's overseas bowling attack. Yet, he pulls this off with a tight screenplay, intriguing plot and an appetite for no-nonsense.

Tragedy strikes early in ATS Officer Daanish Ali's (Farhan Akhtar) married life when he loses his daughter in a shoot-out with some terrorists. His estranged wife blames him for their daughter's death and the guilt has been consuming Daanish from within, to the extent that he attempts to end his life at her grave until he is disturbed by a stranger in a van. This chance encounter was actually planned by Pandit Omkarnath (Amitabh Bachchan) who is also a subject of multiple tragedies but the most recent loss of his daughter, ties them both together. In simple terms, Daanish's daughter Noorie was learning chess under Pandit whose daughter Nina would teach chess to the welfare Minister's daughter Ruhi. She lost her life by falling down the stairs at Minister Yazaad Qureshi's (Manav Kaul) home. This delicate link of tragedies binds the two individuals together through the sharing of grief, games of chess and shots of vodka. Daanish decides to probe into Nina's case to aid the handicapped Pandit who he believes, deserves better justice.

Their frustration rises when the police officially closes Nina's case and just when things couldn't get worse, Pandit is brutally attacked by an assassin who threatened worse actions if they wouldn't leave Qureshi alone. Wazir (Neil Nitin Mukesh) appeared to be a step further each time even as Daanish tapped Qureshi's phone and found out about his trip to Kashmir. Pandit is eager to get there as Wazir threatens to end his life even if he attempts to do so and Daanish has to race against time to bring the popular political figure of Qureshi to justice on the assumption that he could be the perpetrator in a murder case.

At a brisk 102 minutes, Wazir will hold your attention throughout. There is little that deviates from the intriguing plot other than extended sequences of grieving characters, coupled with slow melodies in the background. Yet, those moments are held together by capable actors. In his brief role, Manav Kaul is quite intense. The conniving villain is nefarious enough to really make us hate him. Aditi Rao Hyadri is mostly despondent on screen but she somehow manages to counter the intensity of Farhan. Amitabh Bachchan meanwhile, is really into his character and under V.V.C.'s supervision, he provides one of his finest performances in recent times. Notice his pride as he plays the drunk Omkarnath during the special chess game or when he narrates his tragic losses to Ruhana. There is pure excellence in that personality. We have all been waiting for a film that challenges Farhan Akhtar unlike his last two ventures in acting. After seeing his dedication as Milkha Singh, it really is a treat to watch Farhan get absorbed into his grieving character that has a an impulsive ability to react sharply in tough situations.

Tu mere paas is the romantic theme that plays throughout the movie and its rendition by Ankit Tiwari is beautiful. Maula is a pretty good soul searching qawwali while the theme song is well suited for the thrilling moments. In the end, literally, it's Atrangi yaari that stands out as the film's brilliant anthem and both Mr. Bachchan and Farhan have rendered it with their hearts.

The game of Chess is being played while a personal vendetta is set in motion. The Wazir will play a key role in deciding who turns out victorious in the end. Bejoy Nambiar's thriller tries to dramatize beyond necessary reason and explains the twists in rather unnecessary detail. By dumbing the plot down, he ceases the movie from being open to interpretation and further discussion. However, he deserves the credit here for turning V.V.C.'s efforts in the story and screenplay department to an engaging thriller while extracting some powerful performances through his exciting cast. The unfortunate scenario is that such films fall flat against an audience that cannot digest serious scripts. Just like the pawns on a chessboard, they only take small, straight strides with an occasional wavering of their path to overcome their own doltishness. Rise above if you must and pay attention to this riveting game.

  • 8.663 on a scale of 1-10.
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Abrams has delivered the biggest movie event, perhaps of all time
29 December 2015
It has been 30 years since the fall of the Galactic Empire at the hands of the Rebel forces. The New Republic has now established peace along with the Resistance, but evil has risen from the ashes to form the First Order; the remains of the Empire that is now led by Supreme Leader Snoke. His apprentice shows no mercy to those who refuse to abide by his order as he grows in strength as a Jedi on the dark side. The force has awakened in the Star Wars universe and J.J. Abrams is at the helm of the saga's revival under Disney movies. He manages to trounce all those pressures with a movie that rekindles the magic of the original trilogy, drawing the much needed familiarity with the classic themes and infusing it with exciting new characters, action and rising evil. Abrams has delivered the biggest movie event, perhaps of all time, that paves the way for Disney's grand plan to make a killing with its acquisition of LucasFilms.

On the impoverished planet of Jakku, the Resistance pilot Poe (Oscar Isaac) has acquired the map that reveals the location of Luke Skywalker, the last surviving Jedi and their hope against the rising enemy which suddenly attacks their location. Along with their Commander Kylo Ren, the enemy overpowers the locals and captures Poe right after he hands over the secretive map to his trusted astromech droid, BB-8 who is instructed to flee from the scene. His subsequent torture and suffering come to an end when a rogue Stormtrooper aids his escape as they crash back onto Jakku. Meanwhile, we are introduced to a scavenger named Rae (Daisy Ridley) who earns her rationed food by selling scraps from old battleships. She rescues BB-8 from another scavenger and learns about the secret it carries. Soon, they are discovered by Finn, the rogue Stormtrooper who now aids the efforts of the Resistance. The First Order being alerted about the droid's presence, sends Stormtroopers to hunt down Rey and Finn in a terrific sequence involving the Millennium Falcon. They are then tracked by the original owners of the Falcon, Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca as they find themselves in a rift against some notorious criminal gangs. Meanwhile, aboard the enormous Starkiller base, Kylo Ren and General Hux meet with Supreme leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) to plan the retrieval of Skywalker's location and to activate the Starkiller to destroy the New Republic.

The First Order then attacks the castle on Takodana after getting tipped about BB-8's presence there and along with Ren's knights, capture Rey and leave just as the Resistance forces engage with them. Han Solo and Chewy reunite with Liea (Carrie Fisher), who now commands the Resistance, and plan their final attempt to suppress the First Order by destroying the Starkiller base as General Hux plans to use the weapon to decimate their stronghold. Meanwhile, Rey is yet held captive by Kylo Ren who attempts to extract the secret map with his Jedi power and surprisingly finds it challenging.

Once again, there are multiple battle arenas as the attack ensues upon the frozen Starkiller with Rey, Finn, Han Solo and Chewy aiding the Resistance fighters and Kylo Ren having his own malicious plan to finally lose his temptation to the light side of the Force. In the end, the victorious will yet have to search for Luke Skywalker.

J.J. Abrams does not simply reunite characters for nostalgic purpose. Instead, he uses them to transition into the current times and to give purpose to our new characters. The action is explosive, highly engaging and effective in IMAX 3D including simple chase sequences, X-wing planes in combat and the epic lightsaber battle. The background score by John Williams possesses the grandeur in scale and depth in emotions that resonates with the feeling of the Force itself.

Supreme Leader Snoke is an intriguing character whose origins remain unknown and who, Andy Serkis portrays with his menacing motion capture performance. Carrie Fisher has a brief role to play as the commander of the resistance whose positivity brings strength all around. Harrison Ford reprises his role as Han Solo and along with Chewbacca, charms his way out of all situations he gets trapped in. Almost. Adam Driver had to showcase the darkness and unpredictability behind Kylo Ren's mask and he truly does this with the credibility that will make Kylo a really popular character. John Boyega's Finn constantly finds himself in situations where he's on the run from the First Order that he abandoned. As he learns the ways of the force and aids the resistance in their fight against evil, we witness his character develop rapidly, showcasing Boyega's versatility. But the spotlight truly, is on Daisy Ridley's Rey. Sympathy for the scavenger quickly turns to admiration once she pilots the Millennium Falcon. It's also her charming English accent and lucid emotions that make her so likable while there is still such a mystery about her origins and talents.

The awakening of the Force has led to the expansion of the Star Wars Universe in a profound manner. With the burden of enormous expectations from generations of fans, J.J. Abrams delivers a masterpiece of a beloved franchise with a refreshing take that is so familiar due to several elements. Yet the familiarity doesn't take away the absolutely stunning visuals, highly engaging action sequences, gripping storyline and the introduction of some iconic characters such as Kylo Ren, Rey and BB-8. Evil will return stronger and the Resistance will need much more than their current might can offer. Rey will have to return with the Jedi in the fight against the First Order and Snoke. Episode VIII will unravel many mysteries introduced by Abrams but until then, choose your side of the Force and rise to its awakening.

  • 9.553 on a scale of 1-10.
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Tamasha (2015)
a lively journey that has some highs and many lows in its overlong narrative that isn't quite devoid of the familiar emotions.
12 December 2015
In a life directed by various influential stories, it takes deep introspection to reveal the true path in one's life. It's this journey of self-discovery that has been Imtiaz Ali's hallmark ('Jab we Met', 'Love Aaj Kal', 'Rockstar', 'Highway') and with his latest 'Tamasha', he attempts to portray the hardships of being oneself with and without any influences. Starring Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone, this is a lively journey that has some highs and many lows in its overlong narrative that isn't quite devoid of the familiar emotions.

In the beautiful seaside town of Corsica, Ved (Ranbir Kapoor) helps the lost and helpless Tara (Deepika Padukone) and soon they decide to have some fun as total strangers without revealing their true identities. Don and Mona extend their trip and relationship to a level that takes Tara by surprise as she leaves to go home. Years pass by as she continues to live in denial of her love for Don until a chance meeting brings them back together. However, Tara soon realizes that Ved isn't the same vivacious character she fell for in Corsica and our hero acknowledges himself as just ordinary. Several prolonged tear-jerking sequences later, we witness Ved's rediscovery of his childhood storyteller who was the major influence in his life. In an attempt to revive his circumstances, he seeks to embody a character from another story as he had been doing all his life until he realizes that the most inspiring story wasn't in those tales of the storyteller at all. Ved's was a case of unidentified self-worth and its revelation is the film's most powerful scene. The relationship with Tara was an important trigger in Ved's life and its resulting tragedy would take him down the path of self-realization. This fall and eventual rise of Ved is what Imtiaz Ali's real focus was and those moments are dramatically poignant. The rickshaw driver's story and Ved's storytelling in front of his family were among the most mature, heart melting scenes which will be etched in memory. However, those moments are too few and too far from each other.

The real problem with all this Tamasha is that the process of relationship building and collapsing takes most of the film's duration and it offers nothing new to the viewer. It's just another relationship saga with Ranbir's character being different. Deepika plays herself as she has in about 80% of her films and therefore remains the unimpressive actress that she is. Random quotes of poetry or dialogues, followed by repetitive scenes that depict the obscurity of characters are interesting initially but the redundancy of those themes makes it all too obviously laconic. It almost feels like Imtiaz hurried onto the next project after the laboriously masterful 'Highway' as he hastily connected a few brilliant ideas of an individual's soul searching journey. However, the culmination of all these ideas in the end, result in some powerful storytelling even though its effect lasts momentarily.

Piyush Mishra has the most fun with his lively dialogue delivery since 'Gulaal' while Javed Sheikh as Ved's father portrays parental concern with maturity. Ishtiyak Khan, as the autowala can brag about being in the second best scene of the film. Deepika Padukone is perhaps Bollywood's finest mystery. The happiness she portrays is always over-the-top and the sadness too banal and repetitive from one character to the next. Kangana would have certainly added much more life into Tara's character while offering a truly explosive dynamic on screen with Ranbir Kapoor. Speaking of which, his is a performance that is well balanced with sincerity, understanding of his character's obscurity and versatility. Ranbir can act, dance like Dev Anand in one sequence and be all stoic, straight forward, soft-spoken in another. He can be jubilant and full of life as a loverboy, sincere and humble as an employee and heart-broken as a loser. He yet again proves that he is the best among the newer gen of actors even though, his performance this time with Imtiaz doesn't top that in 'Rockstar'.

Musically, one can rightly expect more from the collaboration between Imtiaz Ali and AR Rehman simply based on their prior work together. Apart from the brilliant Agar tum saath ho, the soulful Safarnama and meaningful Tu koi aur hai, the soundtrack lacks crowd pleasers and memorable numbers. Tamasha could've been a lot more especially with its relevant theme of societal influences on an individual's development. While there are some great moments and strong performances, there are also some overlong sequences, nuance lacking romance and Deepika Padukone that offer nothing new to a viewer who comes with high expectations from a masterful storyteller of very human tales. Imtiaz Ali is still among the finest film-makers and Tamasha for him might end up being what 'Delhi 6' was for Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra; an honest attempt to tell a meaningful story that comes under commercial pressure.

6.998 on a scale of 1-10.
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Spectre (I) (2015)
This is a formulaic Bond film that maintains an efficient dose of gadgets, car chases, stunts, females, tailored suits and gorgeous locales. Bond is back in action.
15 November 2015
Warning: Spoilers
'The dead are alive' is a forewarning that has dual implications. Agent 007 has gone rogue and is in Mexico City in the midst of the 'day of the dead' festivities as he keenly follows M's last order. In the vibrant city center, he pursues the masked assassin in a lengthy single shot that leads him to a hotel rooftop from where he executes his mission. A building blows up as a result and soon the action leads to a thrilling helicopter sequence that disperses the crowd of thousands while the agent engages in a physical combat inside the barrel rolling chopper. 'Spectre' is what some fans of this franchise have been waiting for since 'Casino Royale', which still remains Daniel Craig's best take on the secret agent. While Spectre might be campy and incredulous in parts akin to Bond of prior generations, it still retains some of the darkness and grimness of Sam Mendes' 'Skyfall' and with a lot more entertainment. This is a formulaic Bond film that maintains an efficient dose of gadgets, car chases, stunts, females, tailored suits and gorgeous locales. Bond is back in action.

MI6's 'OO' program is on the verge of being shut down because of C (Andrew Scott)'s digital initiative that will render the secret agents obsolete. With the threat of drones and spycrafts taking over British Intelligence, M (Ralph Fiennes) must rely on Bond's intelligence gathering about the secret organization that links the multiple threats across the world before C's cameras take over global security. After seeking out the assassin Sciarra's widow (Monica Belluci) and probing her about the organization, Bond gains entry to a top secret meeting where Blofeld (Christopher Waltz) is revealed to him as the head of Spectre. Bond, in the Aston Martin DB10 that he stole from the Quartermaster at MI6 is chased by the intimidating assassin Mr. Hinx (Bautista) whose Jaguar C- X75 unleashes itself onto the deserted streets of Rome. This is a thrilling car chase that is even more appealing because of the ravishing concept cars. Further clues lead Bond to Mr. White in Austria who has been paying the price for betraying Blofeld. His final plea to Bond is to protect his daughter Madeline (Lea Seydoux) who can get him closer to Blofeld's lair. Upon meeting Madeline, Bond has yet another chase involving Hinx in a Land Rover and himself in a plane. Together with Q (Ben Whishaw), who ventured on field for the first time, they discover their next lead in Morocco where they encounter Hynx yet again in the train that leads them to the Spectre facility. Bond's capture and confrontation with Blofeld involves a rather contrived sub-plot that not only links all of Bond's past villains but also Spectre's link with C's surveillance initiative. Then there's the bit about James' childhood and Blofeld's true identity as Oberhauser. Suddenly, James Bond has an origin story that we didn't really need but will have to endure so he can plan his escape. The film's climax in London swings between the surveillance program's launch and the explosion of the former MI6 headquarters with Bond stuck in it and Oberhauser seeking a timely escape.

Whether or not Spectre justifies why Daniel Craig's James Bond has been living alone in the shadows, hunting and being hunted throughout his adventures, it does mark a triumphant return of the agent we have been entertained by for decades. Craig's rough and intense Bond was a refreshing take on Ian Fleming's character and he still retains the suave and composure. This Bond will maintain a serious countenance after narrowly escaping death instead of kissing the nearest woman he can find while smiling away into the closing credits. He is indisputably, the best James Bond. Christopher Waltz makes a sinister villain with his power and conniving plans. However, one does wish for more intellectual confrontations with him. Simply put, Lea Seydoux is more than what Olga Kurylenko could be as a Bond girl and far less than what Eva Green was. Ben Whishaw has more fun being Q who is more often in a state of disbelief as to Bond's actions. Naomie Harris' Moneypenny is very likable because she is more than just a secretary to M while assisting Bond through his secret missions. Andrew Scott makes evil look so much cooler and Ralph Fiennes shows his maturity playing M, whose agency is on the verge of being shut down completely.

James Bond's return to form doesn't come without the spectacular action scenes and Spectre has quite a few of them. Apart from one of the best opening sequences, the car chase through Rome, the airplane-SUV chase in Austria, the raw physical fight in the Moroccan train and the climactic closure in London make this among the more satisfying Bond films in recent times. Cinematographer Hoyte Van Hotytema does a stunning job with the vistas and the action sequences to engage the audience.

Director Sam Mendes unnecessarily tries to create massive story-arcs that span 4 films. Adding to that, he attempts to weigh in on Bond's steely personality by giving him a back-story that almost turned him into Bruce Wayne. Were it not for Mendes paying tribute to the Broccolis, we would've had an even darker take on Bond than Skyfall. The worst of it all though, is Sam Smith's opening credits song which is creepily visualized and overly sluggish for a Bond theme. Yet, all these drawbacks shouldn't take away from the entertainment that Spectre offers as an old- fashioned Bond adventure with a serious, contemporary storyline. Each time things get worse, with the out of control helicopter, the Aston Martin dangerously close to the canal, the airplane losing its wings and the MI6 building just seconds away from imploding, Bond regains control with the coolness and composure that only this MI6 agent could own. Welcome back 007.

8.221 on a scale of 1-10.
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Steve Jobs (2015)
Riveting performances in a one-dimensional screenplay
9 November 2015
Minutes before the launch of the Macintosh back in 1984, Jobs is agitated by the designer's inability to make the device say Hello. That unwarranted obsession in reality, was his passionate vision that became the legacy of the iCEO. Walter Isaacson captured the essence of the genius entrepreneur's journey from his garage up until his last days after the introduction of the Ipad 2. However, the adaptation by Andy Sorkin restricts our insight into the character and his legacy as it focuses more on his struggles as a reluctant father and as a failed CEO. Danny Boyle ('Slumdog Millionaire', '127 hours') had to extract the best out of Michael Fassbender and the supporting actors to capture our attention in this one- dimensional biography and with some sharp dialogues, they do have a riveting effect.

The first among the three product launches in the film's narrative centers around the Macintosh and more importantly, Jobs' interaction with Chrisann (Katherine Waterston) and their daughter Lisa, whom he refuses to acknowledge as his own. Jobs' nonchalant and unkind mannerism towards his daughter makes complete sense when he is portrayed as a prick with the Apple team. Sorkin unabashedly focuses our attention to this side of Steve Jobs and offers little insight into the reason behind such behaviors. Adopted at an early age after being abandoned by his birth parents, Jobs' acrimony pretty much takes over the entire film's narrative. The first act also portrays his persistence for achieving the details that wouldn't really matter to the end user but they are primal in his vision. Just when Jobs was to appear on stage to unveil the Macintosh to the crowd, the director jumps to highlight the product's dismal sales performance that eventually led to Apple firing its very co-founder. Four years later, Jobs' interaction with Lisa about the perfect cube and her mother's negligent parenting is interrupted by Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet), prompting him to prepare for a couple of meetings before he gets on stage to launch the ridiculously overpriced, NeXT Cube. In a heated scene, Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen) warns him of the Cube's imminent failure due to its price and market, to which, Jobs pays little heed. Product aesthetics and end-to-end control were at the core of his products while Woz tried to alter his ways to make products successful by making them more changeable. If this argument was heated, then the five minutes with the 'Newsroom' star Jeff Daniels who plays Apple CEO John Sculley, is simply screen-scorching. One man tries to justify why he did what he had to while the other looks for closure from his past failure. His moments with a very concerned Joanna, reveal his broad intentions and astute business mind. The screenplay then jumps to the epic failure of the product that was renowned in the computing industry for years to come. Having been re-hired as then struggling Apple's CEO in 1998, Jobs is about to get on stage to unveil the industry shaking iMac but he must first confront Woz yet again and a grown up Lisa who now shares a much stronger bond with her father. The film closes on the triumphant turning point that would mark new beginnings for Jobs' career as an innovative CEO and for his bond with the daughter he has finally come to acknowledge.

The iMac went on to become hugely successful and it laid the foundation for Apple Computers which then became the hub for industry changing innovations. Sadly, this tip of the iceberg is all that the film showcases about the iconic thinker and his company's successes. Sorkin and Danny Boyle take their creative liberties to not only dramatize the failures of Steve Jobs but also digress from Isaacson's book to lean into the one- dimensional portrayal of the struggling father, failed CEO and ungrateful friend. Such deviations and liberties are acceptable in biopics that don't have two hours of exciting material but ending the story about Steve Jobs back in 1998, just when the world started recognizing his true genius, is risky and honestly unfulfilling. Steve Jobs may have been a prick with his social skills but his intention was only to pursue the unthinkable and achieve the extraordinary with his team. Only the thick skinned folk around him survived his lashing and they turned out to be the successors of his legacy of crowd pleasing innovation.

Michael Fassbender is genuinely, the film's stronghold. His performance is fierce in its sincerity to the portrayal, his understanding of Steve Jobs' passion behind innovating is depicted with the persistence that comes from a mature actor. He is quite straightforward being acrimonious and he makes it look totally normal. This should, at the very least, earn Fassbender a nomination for the best actor. Jeff Daniels comes to his best in the heated confrontation with Fassbender and the scene just electrifies with intensity. Seth Rogen is mostly himself but his disbelief of Jobs' stubbornness is what he plays all along while being supportive to his friend. Michael Stuhlbarg as Andy Hartzfeld portrays the recipient of Steve Jobs' lashing that result from his obsessive innovation standards. Kate Winslet balances the tension, frustration and precarious nature of her CEO but being bold enough to challenge him especially when it concerns his daughter Lisa. As Hoffman, she stands out as a tough woman in business and more so by her well maintained composure.

Danny Boyle's captivating direction includes a variety of filters, lighting and close ups. Andy Sorkin's screenplay shows us his perspective of Steve Jobs which isn't completely fulfilling for those who would've preferred a complete insight into the character. However, the film is a riveting watch because of the powerhouse of performances especially from Michael Fassbender. This may not be the last film about the world's most talked about tech innovator and CEO and it very well shouldn't be.

  • 7.681 on a scale of 1-10.
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Sicario (2015)
'Sicario' isn't triumphant for society but it truly is one of the best thrillers that shows the merciless environment created by the cartels on both sides of the border.
26 October 2015
The biggest war that America needs to win isn't in the middle east or South Asia. It is deep within its heartland where the drug lords of the Mexican cartels have spread the highly influential poison and there is no sign of it ceasing. Tons of illicit drugs pass through secretive tunnels beneath the borders of USA and Mexico, accounting to some very wealthy and powerful cartels while scores of Americans perish under their harmful effects. Parts of Mexico are literally the most violent places on Earth and while Denis Villeneuve's 'Sicario' showcases all these realities between the borders, it serves merely as a backdrop to the true motive hidden beneath the story's surface. This covert war on drugs by America is completely in the gray area of morality and justice of which, Kate (Emily Blunt) is an exponent. She is, however, only learning to cope with the reality around her which alters itself brutally and that, makes her the perfect proxy for the audience.

The cartel has pushed deeper into American soil with Manuel Diaz controlling much of their trade through his legit businesses. While raiding one of his properties for a kidnapping investigation, FBI agent Kate discovers several decaying bodies hidden behind the walls of a house in Chandler, AZ and a subsequent explosion in the backyard shed leaves two of her agents dead. Determined to bring Manuel to justice, she agrees to volunteer in a covert CIA mission led by Matt Graver (Josh Brolin). On their way to El Paso, she is introduced to the mysterious Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro), whose shady background keeps Kate on guard but whose sharpness on field soon gains her respect. What follows is perhaps the most tense, suspenseful sequence where the agents extradite Guillermo (Manuel's brother) in and out of a prison in Juarez. Brilliantly executed with escalating build-up, aerial cinematography of chaos and a thumping background score, this has to be among the finest moments in recent cinema. Emily Blunt's performance thereafter, portraying Kate's disbelief in the irresponsible engagement with the cartel members at the border in the midst of civilians, is outstanding. Throughout the film, she shows her righteous side that upholds justice, procedure and law. She is vocal about the ambiguity of the mission but as the events unfold, she is left with no choice but to become part of Matt's anarchic team. They soon track down Manuel and initiate a plan that would require him to meet the Cartel's head in Mexico to answer some questions. Against the backdrop of an incredible sunset, the team discovers the tunnel that would lead them to the cartel but Kate sees things she wasn't supposed to. Josh Brolin really gets into his character as he enlightens her about the reality that will be too much for her to handle. He is a bad-ass agent who isn't shaken by the guns firing around him as he chews his gum. Brolin depicts Matt's coldness but with purpose as he sets himself to pursue the bigger objective of the mission. Between Kate's idealism and Alejandro's darkness, Matt is simply a reality check for the situation and Josh Brolin delivers that superbly. Mayhem on a personal level ensues after the tunnel episode and without revealing much of the story's twist, it should suffice to say that it all makes sense in the end. Benicio Del Toro revisits the cartel world after 'Traffic', 'Che' and 'Escobar'. His insight into Alejandro's character seems naturally easy with a rock solid composure under any circumstance that is a result of his dark past. We will never know what he precisely did with the 10 gallon water container that he took into the interrogation room where Guillermo was held and that, is the level of intrigue held by Del Toro's performance.

Screenwriter Taylor Sheridan doesn't just focus on the menace of cartel activity on the streets. The film also goes into its effect on a completely normal family of Silvio, a police officer in Mexico who gets his hands dirty for that extra income. Kate's evolution as a special agent in the war on drugs is in sharp contrast to Silvio's journey. The cinematography by Roger Deakins truly brings out the thrill of imminent danger with vast aerial shots, wide sunset shots and close, dark encounters in the tunnel sequence and the minimalist background score by Johan Johannsson's simply augments the effect. Villeneuve delineates this covert war on drugs without the typical mainstream approach. He shows monstrosity taking over both sides, resulting in total neglect of judicial process, law and morals. Benicio Del Toro is the manifestation of this monstrosity in a laudable performance that should win him a nomination for the Oscars. 'Sicario' isn't triumphant for society but it truly is one of the best thrillers that shows the merciless environment created by the cartels on both sides of the border.

8.987 on a scale of 1-10.
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The Martian (2015)
This is the most fun we've had on Mars since the Rover's excursions and the science behind it all, checks right.
18 October 2015
In a not-so-distant future, when NASA is still around to send a 3rd manned mission to Mars for research, a freak storm rips through the station as the crew desperately try to abort and escape its ruthless fury. Blown away by flying debris, one crew member goes missing and is tentatively presumed dead as the Captain makes the call to take off. However, the grieving crew and shocked humans back home are completely unaware of Mark Watney's chance survival. Thereon, science fiction borders reality in a race against time and depleting resources as Ridley Scott ('Aliens', 'Blade Runner', 'Gladiator', 'Hannibal', 'Black Hawk Down', 'American Gangster', 'Prometheus') comes to form after a couple of recent disappointments such as 'Robin Hood' and 'Exodus'. Along with a career best performance by Matt Damon, 'The Martian' descends into a zone that makes it far more entertaining than Michael Bay's space adventures but not as personal and deeply engrossing as Interstellar. It makes for an engaging, funny and credible adventure as it was set out to be in Andy Weir's best-selling novel, adapted here by Drew Goddard;s ('Lost', 'Netflix's Daredevil') entertaining screenplay. This is the most fun we've had on Mars since the Rover's excursions and the science behind it all, checks right.

18 Sols have passed since Mark Watney (Matt Damon) stapled his wound after the storm and his crew's departure. He has calculated his rations, improvised on the limited resources and come up with an survival plan that involves generation of water and cultivation of potatoes - on Mars. Soon enough, the scientists at NASA notice movements around Mark's station through images and reach out to him through the Pathfinder's camera. As the communication links are established, plans are set in motion to rescue Mark even though its execution will challenge several development and launch teams on Earth and himself physically and mentally to survive up to 4 more years. The scientific ideas are comprehensible, making Mark's improvisations with his resources all the more credible. It isn't just about his existence in an inhospitable environment but about pushing one's capabilities and resources to the utmost levels in order to prolong survival. Rescue being an uncertain number of months away, Mark has to keep recalculating provisions while maintaining the constant, entertaining communication. Those lighter moments in such trying times are what make The Martian such a good film compared to the darkness in Prometheus. Time, in essence, is the only villain in this story.

Jessica Chastain plays Captain Lewis, who struggles to get to terms with her decision to abort the mission. She convincingly portrays the compassion for her crew and audacity when she must alter the mission itself. Michael Pena's comic timing is always an asset in a film and as Martinez, he keeps things light and relatable. Kate Mara and the rest of the crew members do an adequate job while some of the stronger performances are by actors back on Earth, including Jeff Daniels as NASA's overly cautious director Sanders, Benedict Wong as the director of JPL who leads a team that is tasked with achieving the impossible, Sean Bean as Mitch who heads the mission with complete dedication to the safety of the crew and of course, Chiwetel Ejiofor's Vincent Kapoor, the engineer whose diligent efforts in tracking Watney led to the agency's serious consideration for launching a rescue mission. His, is perhaps the best performance among the supporting cast. As Watney explains to us, although he is just addressing the camera for recording purposes, the math behind supplies rationing, potato cultivation or simply, the odds of his survival with every changing circumstance, we are completely engaged in his efforts and genuinely want him off the red planet. As an expert botanist whose wit comes in handy in most of the scientific applications on Mars, Matt Damon delivers his most compelling performance that makes science and engineering more entertaining. That is precisely where The Martian succeeds.

The film's ability to convey the scientific and human challenges while being stranded on Mars, but with easy understanding and witty humor that keeps the grip on the audience while they witness a miraculous rescue attempt that is planned and executed to a meticulous degree. Against the backdrop of disco music, Watney gently trudges along the Martian landscape in his rover as the engineers at NASA refer to his rescue mission as Elrond. The nerd quotient here is at a sublime level that doesn't overpower the narrative. The cinematography and visual effects simply make Jordan look more credible as the surface of Mars while the sfx in space are refined enough for certain thrilling scenes. Technically, Ridley Scott has abstained for over-burdening the entertaining narrative with unnecessary special effects. He relies heavily upon Drew Goddard's screenplay of Weir's book and on Matt Damon, whom America has repeatedly sent on missions only to lose him. The Martian is a complete exercise on problem solving. You solve one and another one surfaces. You solve that and there's a new one. Up until you solve enough to just stay alive. A rescue is only a fool's hope or a miracle. In Matt Damon's case, we'd rather keep sending him to faraway places just so we can watch him being rescued again.

9.199 on a scale of 1-10.
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Everest (2015)
Visceral engagement and visually absorbing
2 October 2015
If human beings aren't meant to survive at 29,000 feet, then what gives scores of climbers the reason to scale a peak every year while risking their lives in nature's most formidable playground? Either there is a more emotional reason as one tries to prove his worth to himself or to others or an urge to drown out all the noise and experience existence at impossible elevations. But for most indefatigable adventurers, it is the mountain's sheer majestic presence and its unpredictability that lures them to accomplish what only a few can. While they celebrate success after ascending the summit, the real challenge is that of surviving the descent. Director Baltasar Kormakur's ('2 Guns', 'Contraband') 'Everest' is a gripping re-telling of the 1996 expedition's tragic descent through a devastating storm. There are no heroes or villains in this tale. In fact, it isn't even about those who tried to conquer the tallest mountain but about the mountain itself that decided the fate of humans. Character building, emotions, motivations and achievements have no sentimental value here when it all comes down to one objective: survival. Absolutely justifying the IMAX premium, Everest is an immersive experience that is visceral at its core with the dizzying climbs, astounding landscapes and realistic depictions of mountaineering's challenges.

A diverse group of climbers, led by Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) under the outfit Adventure Consultants, prepare for their expedition at the base camp with short daily routines that aid their acclimatization. The wealthiest of the lot, Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin) has an inexplicable motivation that falls under the shadow of his strained relationship with his wife played by Robin Wright. Doug Hansen (John Hawkes) is an aged Postman whose second attempt to scale the peak has exhausted his life's savings and this achievement will be the most meaningful thing he has ever done. Yasuko Namba (Naoko Mori) is perhaps the worthiest among them since Everest will be the last of the 7 continental peaks that she conquers. Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal) leads a rival firm on the expedition whose expertise is well respected but his risk-taking ability, not so much. At base camp, Helen (Emily Watson) plays the Mommy for the group, keeping a watchful eye and ear to their progress while maintaining composure when heavenly skies split open. Everest is both a physical and psychological peak for the mountaineers and the film shows that the human spirit simply cannot suffice when attempting to overpower extreme elements.

On the fateful day of the team's successful summit, events start to unfold in a frenetic manner as they realize how crucial the short time window to return was. The storm and the mountain are both ruthless and the piercing winds do have a daunting effect on the big screen. Despair, helplessness and anxiety are the prevalent emotions at camp and home as they keenly await word of progress from the top. Without dramatizing much of the outcomes, the film maintains sincerity to the real events to a great extent. It is but a cruel reminder of both Everest's brutality and its attraction at the same time.

Salvatore Totino's cinematography and the visual effects team provide a breathtaking and absorbing experience. Every effort has been made to make it look like they were really on the mountain while the weather elements were captured to an intimidating degree. Jason Clarke brilliantly depicts his character's unshakable sincerity in his work along with the pressure of his team's safety. To whatever extent he may commit himself to the expedition, he has the longing to return home to his wife and their child. Josh Brolin portrays the quintessential tourist climber who isn't exactly fussy but does not fancy the commercialization of Everest nor its extreme challenges. Jake Gyllenhaal plays the more audacious climber who chooses his own methods that may not convince the rest. However, he understands the conditions of the mountain and what is at stake for all those involved in the climb. Emily Watson's alert and caring Helen at the base camp brings the tenderness during intense scenes while Robin Wright plays the concerned wife competently as she has done on the smaller screen as well. Yet, the most moving performance among the supporting cast has to be that of Keira Knightley's as her anxiety, sleepless nights, joy and tears strike the perfect cords each time. When she calls Rob over the satellite phone, encouraging him to continue moving down the mountain, the effect is deeply real. That desperate attempt to overcome the odds, knowing that it stands no chance against the adverse elements, is perhaps as triumphant as the film gets in terms of its human connect.

Kormakur's ambitious project to portray the challenges atop the world's highest mountain looks and feels epic. He traverses through the fine line between docu-drama and mainstream cinema with exemplary results. While depicting the tragic events of the 1996 expedition, he still showcases the beauty and majesty of the mountain along with the technical preparation behind such a climb. 'Everest' isn't just a big IMAX movie that is a must watch for its effects. It deeply resonates with the adventurous spirit and makes us realize the perils involved in the pursuit of something so non-materialistic. One cannot ever understand why the climbers push themselves to such extreme levels of physical and psychological stress nor can one determine the feelings of those who made it back from the fateful expedition. But the mountain will keep enticing the adventurous, the daring, the ambitious and the crazies. Some may not even make it to the top, some may perish in their attempt but those who do reach its summit, witness a view of the world that is unparalleled. The movie, simply shows us this reality.

9.001 on a scale of 1-10.
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A slick, retro spy thriller that's pure fun
25 August 2015
Close on the heels of 'Rogue Nation' comes another espionage thriller to tease the mind while providing popcorn entertainment with its charismatic characters and slick action. Guy Ritchie (Lock, stock and two smoking barrels, Snatch, Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock Holmes: A game of shadows) has almost mastered the retro theme and with this adaptation of a 1964 TV series, he gets to have fun with his stylized direction and intuitive handling of the script. 'The Man from U.N.C.L.E' salutes the pop culture of the 60s with its fine details in set design, costumes and props. It also pays tribute to the good old spy thrillers with few gadgets and special effects so as to keep wit, charm and luck as the tools for success by the agents. Visually, the film is slick and resembles this year's 'Kingsman: The Secret Service' with its breezy elegance and cheeky humor.

Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) was a master thief who now works for the CIA as their valuable agent. His mission in east Berlin is to extract Gaby Teller (Swedish Alicia Vikander) and have her dissuade her father from developing a nuclear bomb for the nefarious Vinciguerras. His attempt at escaping with her is challenged by the KGB operative, Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) in a smooth and exciting opening sequence that will leave you applauding with sheer joy. Later, the CIA director Saunders (Jared Harris) informs Solo that he will be joining forces with his KGB counterpart to form an unusual alliance in the middle of the cold war. The trio travel to Rome, faking their identities in order to gain the trust of Victoria Vinciguerra (Elizabeth Debicki) and during their investigation of a shipping yard, find evidence of the uranium that will be used for the weapons. Their subsequent discovery by the security leads to the film's best sequence that is cheeky in nature and brilliant in execution by Ritchie. After further set-backs for Solo and Kuryakin where they get close to being captured and killed, the MI6 operative Waverly (Hugh Grant) proposes an assault on the Vinciguerras' hideout in order to rescue Teller's father and prevent the deployment of the nuclear warheads. The multi-frame shots of the attack sequence showcase the slick and improvised style of Ritchie's direction that moves past the obvious and re-focuses on the chemistry between the actors as they get closer to intercepting Victoria and the weapons. The disc containing data of Teller's nuclear weapons research is still sought after by both Solo and Kuryakin as part of their individual missions and its possession by either, will test the dynamics of their relationship.

Armie Hammer's Kuryakin is an awkward, temperamental agent who is of course competitive with his American counterpart. His awkward, fake romance with Alicia Vikander's Teller is where is portrayed convincingly and results in some funny situations. Alicia's charming Gaby Teller is lovable at first sight and she can be a mean agent as well. Elizabeth Debicki plays the stunning vixen with finesse and enough aura of evil to be the convincing antagonist. Henry Cavill's suave American agent possesses the charm of the earlier James Bonds although, he's definitely more MI6 than CIA material. He is versatile when it comes to maintaining composure in the thick of the action, being naughty with the antagonist, trying to better his partner or simply, being too cool as Napoleon Solo.

The music by Daniel Pemberton is first rate with playful themes to maintain the breezy feel of the film even in the tense moments while building the tempo when needed. For a budget of $75 million, the set pieces, costumes and art design match up very well to the theme of the 60s and the action also looks better than the medium budget could afford. Guy Ritchie brings nuance to the spy genre by keeping it refreshingly entertaining through witty situations, slick cinematography, dialogues, crisp editing and a constantly zippy plot- line that demands much from the actors. There's never a dull moment here and these men from U.N.C.L.E do their business in a style that's almost incomparable. Several sequences are hilarious because of the way Guy Ritchie treats an otherwise ordinary piece of action. It's his deft touch that delivers this refreshing take on old school cinema that has just enough oomph with the appeal of its cast, production and entertaining theme.

  • 8.881 on a scale of 1-10.
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It keeps getting better!
20 August 2015
The longest running international spy of 18 years is now a fugitive who is sought by the CIA for inevidently saving the world. Ethan Hunt's impossible mission, whether or not he chooses to accept it, will be to survive and of course, save the world from a rogue organization that had its inception within the IMF. With some commendable dedication to not just the stunts and action but also to the production of this franchise, Tom Cruise returns to the role that he is most comfortable with and is most appreciated for. Christopher McQuarrie ('Jack Reacher') takes the reigns of directing this time and brings back the intricacies and guile in Brian De Palma's 'Mission: Impossible'. With some exemplary action sequences, smart protagonists, an intricate plot of deceiving espionage and some desirable futuristic high tech, Ethan Hunt is here on a mission to entertain and as usual, he does it in style.

Hunt and his team have just intercepted a terrorist cell flying out with a stash of nerve gas missiles on an A-400 cargo plane. The seemingly death-defying stunt is what makes Tom Cruise among the most watchable action stars and soon afterward, his suspicion about a discreet terrorism funding organization called the Syndicate becomes real when he is kidnapped by one of their members, the bone doctor. His escape is aided by an undercover operative named Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) who might have more to reveal about the Syndicate. Meanwhile, owing to their previous interceptions including the recent one at Kremlin that caused massive collateral damage, a committee of Senators agree with CIA director Alan Hunley's (Alec Baldwin) testament to disband the IMF to make it a part of CIA. Hunt is now on a run from the CIA, without his team and with limited resources. There are several mysteries that he needs to uncover including the identity of the man he encountered at one of their hideouts and his link to the Syndicate, Ilsa's true intentions and allegiance, the retrieval of the encrypted drive and its disruptive contents. Each sub-plot gets further entangled in the other, with the rogue Syndicate threatening to unleash terror forces all over. It will take more than just Ethan's will to succeed in this mission that's shrouded in mystery like the London fog in the climax. Impossible, but doable.

The storyline, although convoluted at times, strives to be opaque like in Brian De Palma's version, which is a good thing because the mystery adds an enduring value. Every sub-plot and every character unify to a sensible conclusion with the occasional humor and sarcasm to ease through the twists. Some of the action sequences are frenetic and some just gravity defying. Cruise still chooses to perform most of the stunts by himself and that is quite commendable. Apart from the aircraft hanging scene, the film's highlight is definitely in Morocco. After the gripping sequence in the underwater server station, the action moves to the streets of Casablanca with Hunt and Benji in a thrilling car chase with superbikes in hot pursuit. The sheer adrenaline can be felt throughout the sequence as the BMW roars through every sharp corner and straight. This is followed by a superlative bike chase through the mountains which makes up for all the money's worth by itself. Then, to add to the eeriness of the sub-plots, the climax in London's foggy streets takes us back in time to some Hitchcock style thrills as Ilsa has a knife fight with the bone doctor. The other Hitchcock inspired sequence, the assassination attempt at the Opera in Vienna, is among the film's most adroitly executed ones.

At age 53, Tom Cruise still has the ability to be all over the screen. His commendable efforts go beyond just the stunts that he chooses to carry out on his own. He has immersed himself deep into the role of Ethan Hunt, embodying the charming spy who almost gets himself killed every half hour. Cruise's dedication to this franchise is necessary for both its running as well as his own career. No matter who or what he is off screen, he is a remarkable entertainer as agent Ethan Hunt, whose impossible missions keep us hooked in awe. Simon Pegg as the techie side-kick is geeky yet funny enough for us to care about his survival. Jeremy Renner's Brandt is always in a spot between the CIA and his commitment to Ethan's crew and he balances things pretty well. Alec Baldwin has some cheeky lines and adds the right amount of gravitas to his character as a CIA director. The surprise act of the film however is Rebecca Fergusson as Ilsa Faust. She is vibrant, kicks ass in action sequences and is just an equal match for Ethan without being an unnecessary interest of another kind.

Fingerprint verification on car windows, encrypted flash drives that require the Prime Minister's authentication, high tech gadgets and of course, those crazy masks to change identities, make this a thoroughly exciting espionage film. The plot is thick enough to keep you engaged yet not contrived to just fill in gaps between action sequences. Rogue Nation is what Bond films used to be like. It's a complete entertainer by all means and among the most satisfying action films of the year that also enables Tom Cruise to keep this franchise alive. Light the fuse people………..

9.113 on a scale of 1-10.
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