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Happy People: A Year in the Taiga (2010)

Director: Werner Herzog and Dmitry Vasyukov Genre: Documentary With "Happy People: A Year in the Taiga" Werner Herzog ...

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

Director: Francis Lawrence
Hunger Games Mocking Jay
Keeps you engaged with strong performances from lead actors and a few wisecracks here and there. The music is engrossing too (still humming 'The Hanging Tree'...there is nothing Lawrence can't do!). Felt tad too long, given it lacked great content of first two parts.

Overall, a good buildup to the finale of series.


Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014)

Director: Ridley Scott
Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014)
A disappointing affair.  Ridley Scott is known for creating characters that etch into your memory forever—Maximus, Ripley, Deckard. Nothing like that in this film. Summing it up:

- Decent special effects
- Dull acting
- Not enough substance justifying the length.

Best part of the film was the kid playing God; perfectly executed the hatred one might feel following 400 years of slavery. Points to expansive sets too.

Charlton Heston’s Moses remains the one to beat. In fact, the animated version “The Prince of Egypt” was definitely much better than this recent take.


Friday, August 22, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Hands down the sauciest summer blockbuster of 2014—entertaining as hell!

Every single character in the film packs a punch and you totally (G)root for them. It is one of those rare films maintaining a balance of power between good and bad, all through.

Film has a beautiful build up of all the characters with each one of them reaching crescendo. Director shrewdly wards off any triteness in screenplay and familiarizes you to characters without traditional flashbacks and too many back stories; he rather lets actions of the characters speak for themselves—audience is settled into knowing and conciliating with them in natural flow of story.

All five heroes—Quill, Groot, Drax, Rocket, and Gamora—have connected well with the audience and are going to stay with us a while. They have the usual, appealing premise: a band of anti-heroes, mercenaries, and brats coming together to save the world. The goodness in them isn’t apparent but inherent; now they know it and so does the galaxy!

Michael Rooker as Yondu Udonta, with his whistling arrow, was a top-drawer. With all his nonsensical antics earlier in the film, you don’t bank on him to wrap it up this good! But boy does he NAIL it against the Kree soldiers :)

Always nice to see Stan Lee getting some, dude deserves it all! Looking forward to Cosmos the Soviet Dog taking charge in the skull outpost in upcoming film(s). Howard the Duck was briefly there; maybe Marvel is just pitching the character...and because they can—unlike the counterparts, DC.

When it comes to comics, I was only somewhat familiar with the Guardians, more so to the recent 2008 team, and have never gone deeper in all the Guardians of the Galaxy stories—my to-do immediately.


(rating upped after multiple viewings, obviously!)

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Dracula is Back!!

Dracula UntoldThe origin story of Dracula is being retold in 2014. While Luke Evans does look the part, the act is going to be a tall order. Considering, how accurately and fascinatingly Stefan Sileanu brought the legend to life on big-screen in the Romanian epic VLAD TEPES (1979/80). 
Come fall of 2014, and we will know whether this film measures up to the greatness of original.

At this point, it seems upcoming film will be more of a fantasy than history—unlike 1979/80 one. In any case, I look forward to seeing one of the most intriguing and mystical legend live onscreen again, and hope you do too!

More on IMDB.
My take on the Vlad Tepes of Romania.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

Director: Doug Liman

Of late, mainstream cinema is once again seeing some solid films with time loop as an underlying plot, e.g., SOURCE CODE, LOOPER; and now, “Edge of Tomorrow” is another deserving addition to that list. 

Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

Strong Points—

Edge of Tomorrow (2014)Emily Blunt: plays a headstrong and beautiful leader. No wonders Cruise’s character didn’t mind being murdered by her time and again! She is not there for eye candy; complements Cruise in each and every frame, and makes her presence felt strongly. Apparently, she underwent some intensive physical training, along with yoga, while preparing for the role. Effort clearly shows and works well for the film.

Tom Cruise: his popularity and dashing looks are more than enough to make a film box office success; however, these qualities often overshadow his performance and we tend to overlook how robust a performer this man has been. Ever since TOP GUN Cruise has been a consistent actor, always delivering the goods for his productions. This film is no different; stardom aside, he excels in the role. Watch out for his transformation from a mildly timid man into a leader and ultimate savior.  

Screenplay: terrifically done! A lot of cine goers prefer a certain degree of complexity in a film dealing with non-linearity, and most times the complexity simply can’t be avoided. Here, the makers purposely put together a storyline that should come across as elementary to every casual cine enthusiast—so, don’t expect a PRIMER or even SOURCE CODE. Very cleverly, the repeat scenes are first shown in length, and then, after a few replays once audience is also well acquainted with all that is happening, arbitrary cut-to scenes to the relevant point in storyline are used.    

Blunt and Cruise: love story angle is nicely intertwined into the plot without ever overdoing it or impacting the storyline. When a hottie and hunk hook up some love-sparks are bound to flare; good thing makers didn’t ignore this natural human disposition in favor of: duty/saving the world comes first.

Good humor throughout. Supporting cast is majorly a part of comical elements of the film.

A minor weakness was the ending. It wasn’t at all disastrous but should have been left at Blunt sacrificing herself to give Cruise a shot at delivering the killer blow and killing Omega, and dying himself in the process. However, the film did maintain an amorous and somewhat humorous tone throughout, so perhaps director went for a happy ending. Furthermore, when Cruise and Blunt were tracking down the omega, they came across an idyllic house; in that scenario I so wanted a little display of intimacy! It might have been calamitous for the plot; except, we never know...maybe it did happen :)
Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

Plot does seem like a concoction of “Groundhog Day” and “Starship Troopers” but it is not blatantly lifted, rather reworked purposefully. Special effects are expectedly good, and so is alien (Mimcs) design.

Final verdict: this is Doug Liman best work after the masterful “Bourne Identity” and I hope he keeps at it now! Indeed a fast-paced, entertaining, and high-octane showdown that deserves a big-screen outing.


Trivia: Verdun and D-Day (Normandy) are clearly references to World Wars; there is also one reference to TERMINATOR’s judgement day by a Sergeant Farell played by Bill Paxton!  

Sunday, May 25, 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

Director: Bryan Singer

A sensational film and a 'would-be' progenitor to many more forthcoming, smashing X-Men blockbusters! 

Plot: X-Men must alter the past by traveling back in time and nullify a key incident that ultimately results in end of humans and mutants alike. 

X-Men: Days of Future Past

FIRST CLASS was 'the' perfect film and many wondered how Singer would topple it. He actually doesn’t, but what he made is the best possible follow up film that could have been made.Singer had his task cut out; not only he had to make a good sequel to FIRST CLASS but also work his way around previous incongruous films in the franchise, without discrediting any. 

The 3rd X-Men film was the biggest hurdle; makers simply did not foresee more than half a dozen films, and franchise still going full steam ahead. Singer successfully cleared away all mess without impacting any of the origins stories or key highlights of characters. Wolverine still gets the adamantium, Magneto continues the evil/vigilante route, and back-bone of X-Men gets fortified again with Scott and Jean back.

It is one of those few films that were better made on-screen than originally written—SIN CITY and, up to an extent, V FOR VENDETTA to name a few others. Sending Wolverine back into past instead of Kitty was a masterstroke. Time travel conundrum is handled beautifully—no surprises though, after all Cameron was involved consultatively. Quicksilver’s connection to Magneto neatly slipped in the story too (The Marvel-Fox standoff means we will see a different Quiclsilver in Avengers: Age of Ultron!).  

First Class remains the best because it was an intelligent and genius film, yet an all-out mainstream entertainer. On the other hand, Days of Future Past is a dazzling display of genius direction and ingenious screenplay—brings the X-Men universe back on track.

Some Awe-inspiring Scenes and Components

Quicksilver saving the hides of Xavier, Magneto, and Wolverine in Pentagon.

Quicksilver in X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
Future Sentinels: astonishing creativity and impeccable design; clearly a lot of thought behind these. Hats off to the SFX too! (More than Mystique's, I felt Rogue's powers were the key, though.)  

Desolate Future: gives the exact feel of a despondent, gloomy world; even comicbook pages didn't capture it this good!

Whitehouse breach and being palisaded within the 'structure' (too awesome to be spoiled!) Magneto uprooted.

Associations to previous films; at times humorous (best ever pay back 'F--- off' :) and metal detector to name a few), at times elucidating (mentions of Azazel, Banshee, etc.) 

Overall, a brilliant film that opens up the X-Men franchise to possibilities anew. Some might find it little lacking in action, however, considering what all it had to deal with and what it is building up to, it was perfect dose of action.
Original Timeline: Haywire!

Timeline Now:
  1. FIRST CLASS (1960s around Cuban missile crisis
  2. DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (1970s around JFK assassination | Future: 2020s
  3. X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE (1840s-1980s | Wolverine’s memory loss)
  4. X-MEN 1, 2, 3 [2000s | story/incidences conveniently merged into a collapsed timeline; school is formed but Multiverse accounts for Xavier being unacquainted with Wolverine, the events of LAST STAND (Phoenix Saga), deaths of certain characters, etc.]
  5. THE WOLVERINE (2010s)
 Upcoming Films:
  • X-Men: Apocalypse (? | plot undecided)
  • Wolverine 3 (sequel to The Wolverine)

Drawbacks: Hardly any. One minor disappointment was Warpath—his look (facial features and getup) did qualify but stature was very smallish; the guy is 7 feet+ giant in X-Men universe.   

Post Credits: Age of Apocalypse is nigh! Shows En Sabah Nur in action; the Four Horsemen stand guard closely.

JFK Assassination: Magneto was accused of President’s murder, found a related video here - Bent Bullet

Special Cast: consisting of Oscar winners: Halle Berry, Jennifer Lawrence, Ellen Page, and Anna Paquin, Hugh Jackman, and Ian McKellen.
Other acting stalwarts and promising talents include: Patrick Stewart, Peter Dinklage; of course Michael Fassbender is due an Oscar soon :)

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