Logan – A Review

Image result for loganJames Mangold reteams with Hugh Jackman for the Wolverine swansong Logan. Loosely based on the Old Man Wolverine comics this marks the end of one of the most iconic superhero portrayals ever. Patrick Stewart returns for the final time as Charles Xavier. Mangold previously directed Jackman in The Wolverine, the Japan based chronicle of the slicey superhero.

The story is set in 2029, it sees Logan driving a Limo, ferrying people between the southern border between USA and Mexico. Logan is saving up to buy a boat, the Sun-Seeker to escape with Charles who is old and suffering from some non-descript degenerative disease. An Albino mutant by the name of Kalibaan is their only other companion in a desolate, abandoned factory compound they call home. There are hints at some sort of mutant apocalyptic event which wiped out all mutants a few years ago and now no new mutants are being born. This is about as dark and gritty as any superhero movie has ever been. Things are really set in motion when Gabriella played by Elizabeth Rodriguez (Diaz from OITNB) contacts Logan asking for help to get to a place called Eden, North Dakota. Enter nefarious cyborg Pierce played by the towering Boyd Holbrook. Holbrook has a menacing presence, but is almost bond-esque in terms of villains. Suave, witty and sarcastic yet pure evil.

Related imageDafne Keen plays Laura, a mutant with powers similar to Logan’s. What follows is escape from Mexico to Los Angeles and onwards to North Dakota. As with every X-men movie the plot landscape is richly layered and varied. There is an evil doctor involved, there is a huge plot of genetically modified food which has made it impossible for any mutants to be born which kind of gets a little bit lost in all the action. In many ways this movie comes full circle, we see a kindly couple who take care of Logan on their farm in the first wolverine movie, here too there is a wonderful couple who take in Logan, Charles and Laura for the night. Logan was born in Alberta Canada and here too the young mutants are trying to escape to Canada.

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The fight sequences are fantastic and a good marriage of the dusty westerns and the mad max fury road grandness. The camera work by John Mathieson is some of the best work seen in a superhero movie outside of Nolan-verse. There are parts where it would have served the movie’s pace better had some scenes been shorter, especially the casino seizure event and the farm scene.

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Stephen Merchant as Kalibaan is very effective, he bring a sense of comic relief when he nags Wolverine like he is his wife. Dafnee Keen as Laura spends most of the movie mute but is exceptionally terrifying with her action scenes. Boyd Holbrook is amazing as Pierce and I am hoping the climax doesn’t mark the end for his character as he would an amazing addition to the X-men universe. Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier is as effective as ever. His old man rantings are as heart-breaking as they are effective. Not only is this Logan’s swansong, it is also Charles’ and what a wonderful professor X he has been. Hugh Jackman was, is and will always be Wolverine. His physicality, his personality and everything he brought to the Adamantium infused superhero is in my opinion one of the most complete characterisation ever. This role offers Jackman a lot more in terms of sinking his teeth into the character than mere growling and ripping bad guys apart. You see him broken, tired and ready to give up.

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Superhero movies are not meant to evoke strong emotions, but that final scene as Laura lays a cross on its side to represent the X nearly made me well up. Watch this movie because it might simply be the best marvel superhero movie ever made. Watch it as a thank you to Hugh Jackman who has been most faithful to Logan and it would be impossible to imagine anyone else ever being able to fill his shoes. I saw this on a wednesday night to a full house with an actual applause at the end.

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X-Men : Apocalypse – A Review

Bryan Singer directs Jennifer Lawrence, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and many others in the third instalment in the X-men reboot X-Men: Apocalypse. After basing the First Class in the 60s and the Days of Future Past in the 70s we are in the 80s now and the characters don’t seem to have aged a day since the fateful events of 10 years ago when Mystique/Raven played by Jennifer Lawrence changed the course of history by ending the Sentinel program of Bolivar Trask. This time around we are witness to events of 3600 BCE when En Sabah Nur ruled Egypt and is believed to be the first Mutant by Agent Moira MacTaggert of CIA. After lying entombed for several millennia he is accidentally awoken by Moira herself as she lets the rays of sun hit the PCB-Pyramid.

I have always vehemently defended the superiority of the X-men universe over their Marvel rivals The Avengers but I was massively disappointed by the almost cartoonish tone of the first half where Oscar Isaac who plays En Sabah Nur – or Apocalypse goes about recruiting a young Storm, Psylocke, Angel and Magneto. There are moments of brilliance when we are introduced to an incognito Magneto and the subsequent breakdown that is more Macbeth than Magneto but brilliant nonetheless. Michael Fassbender can do no wrong.

After what seemed like an eternity trying to establish character back stories the 2 line plot reaches its climax. Essentially it is Apocalypse trying to recruit mutants into fighting against the human race.

I love Olivia Munn and had high hopes of her being one of the four horsemen of apocalypse. But while she slayed as Sloane Sabbath in The Newsroom with quick wit and perfect timing in terms of dialogue delivery she is given no more than 2-3 lines. She does however wield the sword and the telekinetic “light sabre” and Lasso well. I believe this is not the last we have seen of her. Also disappointing is Alexandra Shipp as the young storm. Haley Berry was perfection as storm and to get that kind of iconic character so wrong is nothing short of criminal. Here’s hoping Shipp improves with future outings. I also feel a little cheated with how Wolverine was used – by teasing the fans with a glimpse of the adamantium claws in the trailer and what we end up getting is more stryker than wolverine. But stick around for the post-credit scenes and your disappointment will dissipate significantly when you see what is in store for the next instalment.

The high points are the introduction of Kodi-Smith McPhee as Nightcrawler who brings in the comic relief and Sophie Turner as Jean Grey the Telepathic Mutant played in the first three movies by the brilliant Famke Jansen. Jean Grey in my opinion is a criminally underused character so far and seems like Bryan Singer is about to set that straight. I am almost certain that the future instalments of this franchise are going to feature a more prominent role for Jean Grey. I say this because of the final words of Apocalypse. Evan Peters reprises his role as Quicksilver and is also a welcome comedic presence in an almost entirely grim outing.

For Fassbender, Turner and Smith Mchpee alone I would say that this is an easily watchable feature. Not the best in the series but certainly not the worst (that would be The Last Stand – which was effectively written off by Days of Future Past)

The Amazing Spider-man 2 – A Review

Marc Webb directs Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone in their second outing as the masked crusader Spider-man in the Amazing Spider-man 2.  The problems which plagued an otherwise fun first movie are addressed here with the introduction of Electro as the main antagonist to Garfield’s Spidey. However Webb now has a problem of plenty with the introduction of Harry Osborne AKA The Green Goblin and also the much rumored Rhino.

I have been a champion for Webb’s work after falling head over heels in love with his directorial debut 500 hundred days of summer. I even loved his first outing directing The Amazing Spiderman which a lot of critics outright panned. But here my feelings for both Webb and the Web-crawler aren’t as strongly positive and that has a lot to do with the story telling. Ever since Nolan directed the Dark Knight trilogy he reshaped the superhero genre with a greater emphasis on story telling than on the razzle dazzle and that is squarely where the movie fails – that and the editing.

The movie feels like 2-3 different movies which Webb was juggling with and the end result is a half-baked effort which sees neither to conclusion. There is the usual tongue-in-cheek Spiderman dry wit, then there is the electro-funk music and explosions extravaganza that is more befitting a Bay or a Snyder and then there is the mopey-weepy rom-com Spiderman more suited to Raimi’s third outing.

Andrew Garfield is still strong as both Peter Parker and Spider-man and gives very little to complain about. My problems lie with Webb’s injudicious use of Garfield on the screen – sometimes there isn’t enough of him on the screen and at times there is perhaps a little too much. Emma Stone makes me go Jim Carrey once more – I mean can she do no wrong? As Gwen Stacey she is funny, witty, charming, and disarming with those big blue eyes and that laugh and those bangs and that cute little nose of hers… wait what were we talking of again? Oh yes the movie – she is brilliant.

Jamie Foxx as electro is ineffective if you ask me – he brings nothing special to the screen in either his Max Dillon or Electro avatar and is mostly over the top. even the writers attempt at giving electro a backstory is merely an unnecessary distraction.  Sally Fields who had reigned in the histrionics she is so known for lets them loose here and is mostly cloyingly annoying. The revelation for me however is Dane DeHann who as Harry Osborne channels the young Leonardo DiCaprio from Romeo+Juliet and The Beach and is talent to watch out for in coming years. I had mentioned about his striking resemblance in the Place beyond the Pines.

Hans Zimmer and the Magnificent Six (that sounds like a superhero tag team to me) including Pharrell Williams provide the background and music. Zimmer’s work is always fantastic for me and here too he does quite well but the whole electro vibe does tend to go overboard at times. The songs are lovely too but this somehow doesn’t feel like the movie for it. Perhaps Webb goes back to doing something similar to 500 days of summer again and treats us to some magnificent music.

To be honest the superhero fatigue is starting to show and it is about time someone reinvents the genre again. I have my hopes in Singer and his X-men but only time will tell. As for The Amazing Spiderman 2 watch it for Emma Stone. And also for Andrew Garfield who still is a better Spiderman than Tobey Maguire ever was. And if you are a fan of the comic books I am pretty sure there were some massive easter eggs left in there towards the end to figure out what is to happen in 2015.

2013 – A Review

Pop that bubbly and kiss 2013 good bye and bring out those notepads to make the resolutions for 2014! I am not the sorts to make resolution and even unlikely to keep one all through the year. But 2013 must be an exception to that rule and what I am hoping is a turning point for me. Back in jan 2013 I made a resolution to write about every movie I saw and as a result I started my blog. Since its inception the blog has generated 4600+ hits and given me many a joy as a result.

There were many highlights like when Ashok Banker posted my review of his 8-part Ramayana series on his facebook page! That was the push I needed to convince myself that I was onto something good. But even before that the blog’s very first post was a fresh and refreshing movie which has continued to be the benchmark against which all other movies I saw this year were compared to – Kai Po Che.

In a year of 100 crore plus blockbusters which required as many aspirins to overcome the headaches they caused there were little indie gems ( can’t believe I am using the word Indie in the indian cinematic context!) which made the year a lot more bearable.

Summarized below are my top 10 picks , my bottom 5 and the 3 biggest disappointments. This is not the whole catalogue of movies released in 2013 – just the ones I made an effort to go watch, there are still Oscar heavy hitters like 12 years a slave, August Osage County , The Wolf of Wall Street  which I am yet to watch and review.

Top 10 : (in alphabetical order) top 10

Bombay Talkies : a first of sorts where 4 mainstream big-name directors came together to present 4 short stories which celebrated the 100 years of Indian Cinema. Each story holding its own and neither director trying to one-up the other  but rather trying to tell an earnest story. Incidentally this is also one my most shared reviews and some people commented that they didn’t immediately see the connect I made between the four stories but did definitely agree afterwards.

Fukrey : A serious rib-tickler thanks to the antics of Choocha and Bholi Punjaban. And featuring the song of the year “Ambarsariya” this one was the most surprising as we went in expecting very little and came out clutching our sides which hurt from laughing out loud. A comedy that did not depend on physical gags and potty humor – my pick for the best comedy of the year!

Gravity : the opening 12-minute sequence is an experience that cannot be compared to any that we have had in theaters ever. A trip to space that we had only imagined so far but was brought life in glorious IMAX by the visionary Alonso Cuarón. Sandra Bullock should trade in her Oscar for best actress for blind side and ask for a new one for this one.  The magic of cinema as it was meant to be.

Go Goa Gone : A zombie movie made in india? You have got to be kidding me! And no Ramsay-fication of the same? Get out of here! This was a close second to the comedy of the year pick. Again went in with very little expectation came out with goosebumps from the gross zombies and a hurting jaw from all the laughing.

Kai Po Che :  I hate Chetan Bhagat and his brand of Indian-English Lit. but to take his story “3 mistakes of my life” and to make it into a sensitive, humorous and realistic tale of friendship, politics and redemption is not mean task.  This introduced us to 3 promising actors and redeemed a director after his overrated RockOn debut.  My personal favorite of the year, and a movie that will only get better with time.

Madras Café : this almost made it to the most disappointing because of the over simplification and the lack of cloak and daggers that I wanted from a smartly crafted and a beautifully shot political thriller. But I cannot take away from the fact that sujoy ghosh made a smart movie with believable performances from 2 of the worst actors.

Prisoners  : comparisons to Zodiac and Se7en are always going to bode well for any movie in my book and this dark and violent thriller about a man on rampage after his little girl goes missing is something that still gives me the chills when I recall the look of abject hatred on Hugh Jackman’s beautiful face. My pick for the best ensemble acting of the year, Jackman, Melissa leo, Paulo dano, viola davis, maria bello all bloody brilliant and I don’t hate Jake Gyllenhall anymore!

RamLeela :  This one is a controversial pick I know. Many people have written off Sanjay Leela Bhansali as a director more consumed with erecting humungous set pieces and working in monochromatic mode than concentrating on the story and character development. I disagree, and strongly at that. RamLeela , a Shakespearean adaptation of Romeo and Juliet set in rural Gujarat between warring clans of Rajadi and Saneda and a opulent multi-hued visual spectacle is the best Bhansali has done in years. This is devdas and HDDCS good. Most definitely the best soundtrack of the year with every single song a win in my book. Give it a watch without preconceived notions against Bhansali and you will be happier for it.

Rush :  Nothing – the answer to the question what can Ron Howard not do? To a person who detests Formula one this was definitely one of the best sporting movies ever made. The rivalry between Niki Lauda and James Hunt captured beautifully without playing the sympathy card for either of the protagonists. Daneil Bruhl turning in one of the best supporting acting all year. Beautifully shot, exquisitely scored – this was a highlight of the year without a doubt.

Ship Of Theseus :  The redemption of Bollywood in its 100 years of existence which has been marred by either blatantly plagiarized Hollywood fluff or story-less superstar billed histrionic orgy. Ship of theseus took a Grecian paradox ( had people googling what the hell a paradox is ) and turned it into poignant moving cinema which proved to the masses that you don’t need a small country’s GDP-equivalent budget or big-name stars to make a beautiful and technically adept movie. You need a brilliant director, a strong script and absolute dedication to your craft. Karan Johar rightly said – this movie makes every other filmmaker feel inferior. This should have been India’s entry to the Oscars’ foreign language category.

 

Bottom 5 ( In alphabetical order)

bottom 5

B.A. Pass : what promised to be a sensual Noir film ended up being a one-note repetitive mess which went no were and failed because the director was more consumed by trying to make a stylized movie which tried to touch upon every cliché possible rather than to make a simple story told in layers.

Bhag Milkha Bhag : the trailer set the pulse racing with a buffed up Farhan Akhtar running with a tyre tied to his waist against the stark ladhak landscapes. What was promised as a sporting bio-pic ended up being a boring meaningless mess. I had  such high hopes and I was left clutching at straws trying to find any redeeming factors about this movie.

 Chashme Baddoor : how can you take a Farooq Sheikh and Deepti Naval classic and butcher it so that it bears no resemblance to the original movie from which it was adapted from.  Chashme Baddoor is how.  

Dhoom : 3 : I knew this was going to be bad – but so bad that I had to take notes for my review! Every single thing about this movie was an absolute stinking turd. The only saving grace? The world now is in on the secret I knew for years! Aamir Khan is a conman who in guise of perfectionism is a hack who has only gotten lucky with a few good films and is essentially a worthless actor.

Satyagraha : Amitabh is good the rest is bad and Prakash Jha is  quickly become a tiresome director to sit through and when the new channels rehash the same political conundrum the nation is going through better than a national award winning director there is something definitely wrong with the movie.

Biggest Disappointments:

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 Lunchbox :  the end product failed to live up to all the hype surrounding the release of the movie and the hue and cry that followed afterwards when this movie was not selected as India’s official entry to the oscars. sure it is a cute little story but it did not live up to the potential that it held and ultimately the biggest disappointment for me for the year.

Man Of Steel : Snyder sullied the name of Nolan by making this mess of a movie. The perfect choice for superman Henry Cavill was not given enough to do in the movie which was more Snyder & Goyer  and less Nolan (chris and jonathan both) . a BIG disappointment all around.

 Nautanki Saala! :  the rising star of the last year Aayushman Khurana fails to entertain and the movie overall is just a giant mess. Less than catchy tunes and a story that had the potential but fails to deliver is the reason why this movie makes it to my list of big disappointments.

 

So there you have it – I wish I had seen more movies this year than I did and that is a resolution I am certain to make for 2014 and as a result more reviews to write and read. I will try to add more variety than just movie reviews and there is an exciting prospect under development which when accomplished I will be very very very happy to share with all!  Here is wishing all you readers of my blog a very happy new year and good luck with those resolutions! Make a resolution because it feels great at the end of the year when you sit down to look at what you have accomplished!

 

 

X-Men First Class

Matthew Vaughn tries to breathe new life into a super-hero franchise which under the able direction of Bryan singer was promising to turn into one of the biggest movie franchises because of its rich and varied source material, died an almost agonizing death at the hands of Brett Ratner. There was an attempt to resuscitate it with the enigmatic Hugh Jackman and his spin-off Wolverine Origins movie but the results were less than satisfactory.

Matthew Vaughn has had somewhat of a hit track record; his previous Kick-Ass was indeed that – it kicked Major Ass! And stardust was a fun take on a fairy-tale genre. With the story credits to Bryan Singer Matthew Vaughn delivers a blockbuster worthy of its predecessors (1 and 2).

The movie is essentially a prequel to the X-Men franchise which traces back to how Xavier and Magneto came to what they were. The story traces the origins of the Mutant Vs Humans conundrum and packs a serious punch in the acting department.

The earlier ( or is it the later considering this is the prequel) X-Men movies had thespians like Patrick Stewart ( Charles Xavier ) and Sir Ian McKellan (Magneto) in its lead roles and it is only right that modern day acting protégés James McAvoy (The Last King of Scotland ) and Michael Fassbender ( Hunger) are to take over from them. Both of then doing such perfect justice to their roles that it is hard to imagine anyone else but them being suitable to essay that role.

The movie benefits from excellent casting choices. McAvoy and Fassbender are great. Kevin Bacon as Sebastian Shaw is excellent and drops a major Story-Origins spoiler which took me by surprise (cause I am not a comic book loving nerd! ) . Nicholas Hoult (About a Boy) is charming as the young Beast, January Jones (Mad Men) is sexy, seductive and scary as Emma Frost, rising star and Oscar Nominee Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone) as the young Raven/Mystique is good but not slinky enough for my liking ( I mean no one does full-blue-body-paint justice like Rebecca Romijn!!) also the host of other itsy-bitsy mutant characters are well chosen and have a ready chemistry to blend with the stellar cast.

The Screenplay is excellent, the dialogues witty and delivered with a tongue-in-cheek fashion and are a whole lot of fun (Kinky!, You know what they say about big feet)

Two thumbs up to the Very Special Guest appearance by the crowd-favorite Adamantium infused super-hero and a very very VERY special appearance by Rebecca Romijn (tell me I wasn’t the only one who noticed!). Also I am absolutely certain I saw a young storm in the cerebro sequence.

Overall an excellent movie and a fun time spent at the cinema, only wish there was a little more action and some more mutant options thrown into the already lavish buffet spread.

One parting thought though – Matthew Vaughn might have done too good a job with this movie. I mean the movie ties up the beginning to the original X-men so perfectly that it does not really leave much room to add new dimensions to take the story/franchise forward. Oh well here is to Matthew Vaughn and his KickAss-2 and to the faithful Hollywood producers who know how to milk a franchise dry – so there is hope after all!

Kick Ass

Kick Ass by Mathew Vaughn is another one of the movies in the presently over exploited genre of Super heroes. But what could have been a underwhelming adaptation of the Marvel comics turns out to be super entertaining and very surprisingly fresh take on the Genre – kind of like what Nolan’s Batman did. Now any movie that gets compared to Nolan’s work is worthy of attention.

Kick Ass is the story of Dave Lizewski , an ordinary New York high school kid who “has no power and thus no responsibilities” and his only real super power is “a slightly heightened ability to take kicking”. Following a mugging incident he resolves to fight crime and becomes a masked vigilante. His first super-heroic attempt at saving a man’s life while fighting off 3 villains is captured on cell phone cameras by teenagers in a diner and he suddenly becomes an internet sensation!( how very 21st century). When not donning the green wet-suit he plays the gay bff to Katie the girl he wants to score in high school.

Without going too much into the story and spoiling it for the ones who have not seen it – the story also features Nicholas cage who for once doesn’t bore me half to death and is quite solid in his itsy bitsy role. Cage plays “Big Daddy” to Chloe Grace-Mortez’s foul mouthed “Hit Girl”

Kick ass does feel at times like homage to “The Dark Knight” with subtle hints at the masterpiece in terms of the choice of background score and the wide sweeping shots of the newyork skyline (TDK has chicago) and also in not-so-subtle ways like the bat-suit that “Big Daddy” dons.

Aaron Johnson who plays Dave/KickAss is solid as a geeky super hero and his awkwardness feels genuine. Christopher Mintz-Plasse reprises his Mclovin persona from Superbad ( a movie that I wasn’t a big fan of) as the son of the crime kingpin Franco D’Amcio played ably by the most able of the super-villains Mark Strong ( Sherlock Holmes, Stardust). Chole Grace-Mortez is a revelation as the pigtailed-cutie who kicks some serious ass. This movie was rated R for its strong language and violence and Chloe wasn’t allowed to see the movie herself (amjustsaying).

I enjoyed Matthew Vaughn’s previous Stardust more than I should’ve but it also featured and ensemble of characters whose casting seemed unusual at first ( Robert Di Nero as a closet cross-dresser I mean come on!) and similarly the casting here is also a little unusual , its unpredictable and that’s why it is so much fun. Plus unlike (the overhyped) Scott Pilgrim VS the world where Michael Cera played the hapless super-hero ( well since he fought super-villains) this movie doesn’t feel the least bit forced. Its awkward humor doesn’t seem forced. This has increased by excitement a million times over for the next Matthew Vaughn feature “X-Men First Class”.

Kick Ass Kicked some major ASS!

This article is a reproduction from my facebook account.