Archive for the ‘Everyone’s a critic’ Category

TL:DR – Gorgeous production values, superb set pieces, throbbing thumping background score and isolated moments of goosebumpy brilliance cannot make up for a muddled script that ultimately makes up for a inconsistent and frustrating movie. Oh and Batfleck is actually pretty decent in the role

 

BvS Dawn of Justice

 

Full Review

 

“It begins as a whisper… a promise… the lightest of breezes dances above the death cries of 300 men. That breeze became a wind. A wind of freedom… a wind of justice… a wind of vengeance”… This is how the sequel to 300 begins and words that particularly pertinent to BvS. 300 was the movie that made Zack Snyder his name so as to speak and quite literally landed him the keys to the DC Kingdom

 

The whisper, the promise was the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), the set of interconnected yet standalone movies that would prove to be a perpetual money spinner. The wind being the others, Sony attempted to do a Spiderman Connected Universe, Fox wanted to do one with the X-men and Fantastic Four, both Sony and Fox with their Marvel properties and then not to be left behind, Warner Brothers with their whole library of DC characters

 

Man of Steel (MoS) was the Superman re-launch vehicle and it was never considered to be set up the DC Universe but things did fall propitiously into place. MoS was in tone a different beast from the MCU. Grim, somber, you could call it realistic and the ensuring carnage when Superman and Zod, 2 beings possessing superhuman strength reducing downtown Metropolis to rubble earned a lot of critical disdain but definitely helped set up BvS (Yes, I am aware of the irony of talking about realistic given the context of super humans dueling in midair and leveling cities)

 

BvS starts off with the obligatory death of Bruce Wayne’s parents and then moves to the climax of the Superman vs Zod slugfest with Bruce Wayne catching the fag end of it as the 2 duelling superhuman reduce a Wayne office building to rubble fueling Bruce Wayne’s (and hence, Batman’s) hate for Superman. Superman does not approve of the increasingly violent Batman who brands and marks criminals and Lex Luthor plays the neurotic puppeteer orchestrating the gladiatorial death match advertised in the title.

 

I admit I did love MoS. Snyder has a reputation of being a style over substance director and MoS was a nice break from that reputation. The movie did go over what it meant to be Superman in this age of cynicism and selfishness and until the obligatory requirements of action set pieces befitting a summer superhero blockbuster movie intervened, an examination into the choices a conflicted super-being had

 

BvS falls into the same category. It is grim and dark. But where it really suffers from is a lack of identity. The movie has to serve as a sequel to MoS, introduce Batman to this universe and act as a set up for the Justice League movie. Even with these spinning parts, the movie tries to touch on Superman’s identity in a world that maybe does not need him, the broader political ramifications of the actions Superman takes, who is he answerable to, why is Batman so bitter, what is Wonder Woman searching for, who are the other meta humans, coupled with (k)nightmare/ dream sequences that our heroes faces. A whole lot of balls up in the air and predictably the movie crumbling under the weight of all the moving parts, fails

 

But what a failure. What a glorious failure. This is a failure that reeks of ambition. A simple competent script that really doesn’t do much plot wise, moves it along using Maguffins, snappy repartees, a bit of nostalgia and longing (ala Avenger/ The Force Awakens) would have definitely worked better but would not have distinguished it from the increasingly saturated and almost uniformly sanitized superhero releases in the market

 

Coming to the performances itself, Ben Affleck is a surprise. The outcry when he was announced to be Batman was shrilly negative to put it mildly and his turn as the brooding, dark, gritty, grizzled and violent Batman is great. He also gets a great combat sequence that beats any from previous Batman movies. Cavill as Superman continues his good work and his confusion and internal conflict on the role Superman has in society is well etched. However, he does kind of get second billing, not just in title or credits but also in terms of his impact in the movie (except for the climax). For someone who barely has 16 lines in the movie, Gal Gadot steals the show whenever she appears on screen. While the trailers definitely spoiled the moment of the movie before hand, it still is a massive moment when Wonder Woman enters the fray accompanied by a frantic tribal background score.

 

Trinity.png

 

On the flip side, Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor just did not work out. While I understand the direction DC wants to take, there are certain canonical things you don’t mess around with. You don’t make Lex Luthor a combination of Lex, Joker and the Riddler. With this usual tics and nervous energy hammed upto 11, this was a rather painful Lex Luthor. Amy Adams, Jeremy Irons and Holly Hunter get to play significant cameos in the movie with Irons proving to be a total delight as Alfred

 

The titular Batman vs Superman fight is bloody awesome and worth the hype. It would have definitely helped if the Doomsday reveal hadn’t happened in the trailer but that conflict is also quite awesome and things really perk up once Wonder Woman gets into the action. The Justice League set up/ introduction takes a leaf from the Marvel movie and definitely as clumsily shoehorned into the plot

 

Critics have shredded the movie and I don’t blame them, but it definitely is not as bad as it is made out to be. Yes, there is a sense of disappointment and frustration given the hype, the expectation and the almost unbelievable sense of buildup for the last 30 odd months (ever since the announcement at San Diego Comic Con) but given this is the dawn of Justice League, one cant help but still be excited and hopefully, now that this bogeyman is off the back. Bring on the Suicide Squad, up next!!!

 

PS: Lex’s warning/ premonition on the big bad coming and the (k)nightmare with the Omega symbol and parademon could pretty much only mean Darkseid na.. Dang, that is awesome…

 

PPS: Flash coming back in time to warn Batman again is as much a DC lore as it can get

 

PPPS: Cool callout to the Wonder Woman movie. Given Gadot’s limited screen time and yet great impact, we are properly primed for that movie. Oh and Chris Pine 🙂

 

PPPPS (last one I promise): First thing I did coming home was to grab Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns to go through the epic Batman vs Superman fight and Batman’s majestically epic takedown dialog to Superman

 

 

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With 2015 coming to an end and 2016 starting off without a break, it’s time to take a look back. As inevitable as someone cracking the “See you next year” line on New Year’s Eve, what this pretty much entails is building a list, a list of anything that one can kind of think of and do justice to the whole bunch of movies put out this year. To a great extent, a list of the top movies is pretty much an exercise in subjectivity, bias and as far moved away from a scientific approach as possible which is pretty much how this particular list below has also been generated apart from incorporating a few basic parameters like fun had, re-watchability, quality etc

 

This blog has never been shy about its love for the spectacle, joy and entertainment that a blockbuster movie brings to the screen (well, hence the title for this post) and paying tribute to the best blockbuster movies of the year is usually more about wondering which movie to leave out. The expectations for 2015 blockbuster movie were quite high given how quite wonderful 2014 had turned out to be and the slate of movies 2015 had in schedule – sequels to prior awesome movies, reboots of previously successful and beloved (in some cases) franchises, original property from acclaimed directors amongst them. In a way, those expectations were met and exceeded. Box office numbers from these movies were the highest ever and new opening week records were set and reset through the course of the year. But that isn’t really the true judge of the quality of a movie and the list below indicates pretty much that.

 

 

Mad Max: Fury Road spent quite some time in development hell and production dungeon before the sheer insane driving force and stubborn vision of George Miller brought it to life and is easily the movie of the year. The title pretty much conveys the mad and furious nature of what is essentially a chase movie but a chase done with so much style, unrelenting fierceness and with surprising amount of substance in its subtext, that it was viewed multiple time on the big screen. Make no mistake, this is edge of the seat, nerve wracking, pulse throbbing action packed visceral ride backed by some absolutely crazy stunt work and vehicular homicide set to a pretty kickass music score and creative imagery. Who can forget the Doof Warrior setting the tone for the chase playing a flaming guitar in a red onesie surrounded by gigantic heavy duty speaker systems? Lest it feels that the actors in the movie are just superfluous, banish the thought. Charlize Theron gets to play an awesomely strong lead character while Tom Hardy, relegated to a support character despite being the titular lead, conveys a fair amount of desperation and horror at the situation he finds himself in and how the world turned out to be

 

Crimson Peak Cover

Speaking of horror, Crimson Peak by Guillermo Del Toro is less a horror movie as advertised and more a creepy movie but built and designed through all the love GDT can lavish on, through arresting visuals and fantastic set design. This is a slow burn movie that in the first half does spend a fair amount of time focusing on the Tom Hiddlestone , an aura of charm, mystery and tragedy around him, who is front and center until the second half where Jessica Chastain comes into prominence. Mia Wasikowska brings in the right amount of vulnerability and naivety to the role. Deeply atmospheric, this is a moody film that takes its own sweet time and pace until rushes to the climax

 

The Man from UNCLE

 

The opposite of atmospheric is the delightful romp, The Man from UNCLE – a movie that is all style but not so much substance. With the typical Guy Ritchie touches and flourishes, the movie is a fun ride with the cast playing perfectly off each other. Henry Cavill as the charismatic American agent Solo, Arnie Hammer as the dour upright Ilya and the delightful Alicia Vikander playing the supposed damsel in distress display fantastic chemistry and antagonism even as they try to work together towards common goals which each pursues their own agenda as they try to work each other out

 

Inside Out

 

Movies often deal with managing the feeling towards an external party but it takes a Pixar special to help us understand how feelings work internally and why even the so-called negative feelings are important. A strong contender for the best animated movie Oscar, Inside Out visualizes and gives shape to each feeling, and how these feelings are responsible for the development of personality in a human being. Shaping it like an adventure, this movie for kids and not for kids truly a wonderful, subtle and innovative piece of movie making

 

Furious 7

 

Subtlety is not usually a feature associated with the Fast and Furious franchise and with the untimely death of Paul Walker, there were fears indeed on how badly that would play out. However, Furious 7 assuages those fears and gives Paul Walker a truly emotional and heartfelt send-off that is just perfect and in no way feels crass. The rest of the movie is suitably loud with over the top stunts and wafer thin plot keeping in line with the rest of the series. There is a sever sense of foreboding but James Wan takes it in a different direction than expected. Kurt Russell pops in as a secret government agent but really hams it up having a lot of fun while Jason Statham plays the bad guy proving to be quite a physical match to Vin Diesel

 

Spy

 

Physicality and combat skills are what we expect from Jason Statham but displaying a vein of comedy hitherto never seen before, his extended cameo almost steals the limelight from a perfectly cast Melissa McCarthy in Spy. An action comedy thriller from Paul Feig, with a storyline that zips through the kind of global locations a James Bond movie would use, McCarthy plays the relegated desk agent who gets into the field with refreshing candor and allows her to naturally evolve from her timid self to the profane, cursing, headstrong Melissa McCarthy that we are familiar with. For all the comedy in the movie, the action is perfectly balanced and often searing humorous dialogs are deadpanned, mostly by the indestructible Jason Statham. Jude Law has a ball as well playing the suave James Bond kind of agent

 

Kingsman_The_Secret_Service_poster

 

There is a moment in the delightful movie, Kingsman: The Secret Service, where the stiff upper lipped Michael Caine superciliously tries to guess what Eggsy’s dog’s name JB stands for. He goes for the usual James Bond/ Jason Bourne only to be told that it stands for Jack Bauer, slyly indicating that this ain’t that kind of movie; A movie that hides its penchant for violence and spilling blood under a stylish veneer of genteel British manners, accent and gentlemen clothing. Who would have thought Colin Firth would make such a fantastic action hero or Samuel Jackson as a limp wimpy villain except for the super talented Matthew Vaughn. The movie is ridiculously fast paced and entertaining while being playful at the same time and boldly R-rated violent, one of the best comic book movies of the year

 

The Martian

 

One of the best books of last year was written to be made into a movie and with Ridley Scott behind the megaphone and with the pitch perfect casting of Matt Damon, The Martian turned out to be a fantastic movie. The key challenge in converting the book to the movie was in condensing the numerous monologues that Mark Watney, the stranded astronaut has with himself and that has been handled adroitly through video logs. Martian is a nifty piece of film making and more than anything is a feel good movie. The pace hardly every sags and Damon acts the sh*t out of it, never despondent and displaying the right amount of cockiness, resilience and spunk to make you root for him. The supporting cast is great as well even if they do have a fairly limited role in this Man vs Space contest

 

Star Wars TFA

 

Space: The Final frontier – that’s how Star Trek begins. But this is not about Star Trek but about the other not-so-small Star movie that was released a few days back (and also a reason why this post didn’t come out immediately after the blockbuster season). In what can only be politely described as a seqoot (sequel + reboot), JJ Abrams manages the expectation of possibly the biggest and the most rabid fanbase in delivering a Star Wars movie, that is indeed a Star Wars movie. Star Wars: The Force Awakens brings in the old and the new in a tried and tested formula that repeats the beats of A New Hope but offers just that enough amount of divergence to make it stand on its own. Right from the goosebumpy John Williams score on the opening scroll to the appearance of the Millennium Falcon to the climatic set piece, the movie is a blast. What Abrams does well enough is to provide just that right amount of twist to set up exciting possibilities that will allow future sequels to run in a different direction and he is helped in this by the new cast. Daisy Ridley, an unknown face pretty much becomes the face of this new set of movies while John Boyega carries off his role with aplomb.

 

These 8 movies were the best that the blockbuster season had to offer. While this season was commercially more successful than the previous one, last year had a larger number of movies that were pretty good. 2016 is likely to be interesting with a slate of superhero properties guaranteed to make a lot of money scheduled to be released. Batman vs Superman, Civil War, Rogue One are ones that could definitely come close to breaking some of the records set this year and one really does hope that these movies turn out to be good as well

 

PS: For those wondering about the Avengers sized omission to the blockbuster list, Age of Ultron was a movie struggling under the weight of having to do too many things – serve as a worthy successor to Avengers, Set up Infinity War, Set up Civil War, Set up Thor: Ragnarok while introducing new characters we could get behind. It definitely wasn’t a surprise that the movie while remaining good in parts never came together as a cohesive whole. The moments where the team come together, share quieter moments are the best parts of the movie and in true Whedon style, the bantering, the quips and the humor are tremendously engaging.

 

PPS: Jurassic World was the other significant omission from this list. Well, the movie was oddly disjointed except for when the dinos come up on screen. Chris Pratt is quite engaging but I am not sure if the rough and tough hard guy role really suits him

 

PPPS: Other movies that were good but not great – MI5 and Ant-Man. MI5 had quite its share of thrills and the movie really gave us an awesomely fascinating female lead who could go toe-to-toe with Tom Cruise in Rebecca Ferguson. Paul Rudd is great as Ant-Man with just the right balance between humor and action but given this is an origin movie, it pretty much goes through the checklist approach. To be fair, the climatic fight is actually good and inventive and features Thomas the Tank Engine as well

The very kind folks at Gollancz had air-mailed this book all the way from UK for me to review. The best part about the deal was the book was free and all one had to do was to review it within 3 weeks. Below is the review that I had written for the book. (what better way to keep the blog active, given how hectic schedules have become all of a sudden, there is barely anytime to read a book, let alone update the blog)

Wolfhound Century by Peter Higgins

Wolfhound Century

Imagine being invited to a sumptuous 5 course meal. Extremely rich & extremely delicious. However, as you finish the 2nd course, the dishes are whisked away and you are asked to come back again at a different time for the remaining courses. Wolfhound Century is a bit like that. A fantastically well written, brilliantly imagined world, set in a Russia, that may not be a Russia, Peter Higgins builds his world deftly and populates his world with characters and hidden worlds that are living breathing characters in themselves.
In a nutshell, the plot revolves around Vissarion Lom, a police investigator who is empowered by his supervisors to root out and find the leader of the revolutionaries, creating problems for a totalitarian government. However, things are not what they seem. Betrayals, corruption, deceit and bureaucracy confront Lom in every direction. Lom is a character we can all root for. A decent cop (a rarity), his are the eyes through which the book enfolds and what a world that is. This world is a one that had angels fall from the skies and has a hidden world that is targeted for destruction.
Its quite an intriguing thriller and Higgins has short chapters that help drive a sense of urgency to proceedings. The book starts with a bang, lands you smack in between and lets you figure things out, even as things keep on happening. At 300 pages, a doorstop it is not. However, the very lack of length of the book throws a curve ball at you since you realize as you reach the end of the book, that the central conflict is not resolved and sets up the stage for a sequel, which does seem to come out of nowhere. Its a scenario where in you expect the Battle of Helm’s Deep to complete the Two Towers movie and instead the movie stops when Legolas takes out the Saruman’s Wargs. Which unfortunately is the aftertaste that you are left at the end of the book.
Peter Higgins definitely has a bright future given his prose and world building. However, what he needs to be working is to up the stake of his novels and make his climax bigger.
Count me intrigued for the next book in the series.
Overall rating: 6.5 Stone Angels on 10

Lo, the most awaited awards ceremony has been conducted & awards bestowed on the deserving candidature of the Twilight series & Adam Sandler. Oh yes, I am talking of the Razzies. Which one were you guys thinking of? The other small, not so significant awards ceremony that takes place in Dolby Theater. That awards ceremony which voted for Brave over Wreck-it Ralph & ParaNorman. The same awards ceremony that was torn about by critics for Seth McFarlane being inappropriate (Who would have thunk?). All said & done, it is now time for the inaugural Beanbag Critic Awards, doling out awards, good & bad on movies, most of whom do not find any Oscar love at all (but do end up grossing more than your average Oscar nominated movie)

 

You don't say...

 

Entertainer of the year:  The Avengers

Action movie of the year: The Raid: Redemption

Thriller of the year: The Headhunters

Horror movie of the year: The Cabin in the Woods

Sci-fi movie of the year: Looper

Animated movie of the year: Wreck-It Ralph

Disturbing movie of the year: The Skin I live in (Wonder what kind of mind even thought of the movie)

Bat-shit crazy movie of the year: Iron Sky (Nazis in moon decide to invade the US, what could be more crazier)

Comedy movie of the year: 21 Jump Street

Drama of the year: Moonrise Kingdom

Wildly & Wickedly Inappropriate movie of the year: Ted (please please please listen to the Thunder Song from Ted)

 

 

The Transformers of 2012 (in all aspects): Battleship 

Visually outstanding with disappointing storytelling movie of the year: Prometheus. Wattay disappointment. I happened to catch the 1st 15 mins of the movie in 3D Imax. You are literally blown away and then the movie starts and you wish someone would blow the folks on screen with a shotgun

 Movie Kevin Costner would be proud of: The Grey

The Best Performance of the year: Quvenzhane Wallis as Hushpuppy in Beasts of the Southern Wild. An amazingly astonishing performance from the 9 year old.

Vanishing Act of 2012: Ryan Gosling (Hello, where did you vanish after an awesome 2011)

 The Nearly Man of the year: Joseph Gordon Levitt. Part of 2 major box office successes in TDKR & Looper but overshadowed by Christian Bale & Bruce Willis respectively. Solo lead in Premium Rush that tanked miserably

 The Needs-To-Read-Script-Before-Signing-Up Star of the year: Taylor Kitsch. Not one, Not two but three clunkers in the year (despite his best efforts). John Carter (Nothing new but massively big budget). Savages (Oliver Stone must have been smoking the same drug that was depicted in the movie). Battleship (Transfomers-Like, that too without Megan Fox)

 

"I promise to read the script the next time"

“I promise to read the script the next time”

 

Best Lone-Good-Spot-in-an-Abysmal-movie: Tom Cruise singing “Dead or Alive” in Rock of Ages (Disappointing movie, very disappointing)

 

 

Chemistry of the year: Tony Stark & Bruce Banner (Yes, seriously). For traditional chemistry of the year, Andrew Garfield & Emma Stone in the Amazing Spider Man

Intense performances in an unremarkable movie: Jeremy Renner & Rachel Weisz in The Bourne Legacy

Cameo of the year: Johnny Depp in 21 Jump Street

Best Tommy Lee Jones Impersonation of the year: Josh Brolin in MIB3

 

Tommy Lee Jones, on the left

Tommy Lee Jones, on the left

Worst Bruce Willis Impersonation of the year: Joseph Gordon Levitt in Looper (Movie was awesome, make up was extremely distracting, mannerism copying was brilliant)

 

JGL Bruce Willis

 

The Andy Serkis award for best performance in motion capture: Andy Serkis as Gollum in Hobbit

 

kinopoisk.ru

 

Expression of the year: This!!!!!

 

Loki Expression

 

Song of the year: Far Over the Misty Mountain Cold in Hobbit. Goosebumpy Max

 

 

Most Satisfying BGM of the year: Hans Zimmer for the TDKR

 

 

Takedown of the year: Gina Carano’s takedown of Michael Fassbender in Haywire. Downright brutal, nasty hand-to-whatever-you-can-lay-your-hands-on fighting

Accessory of the year: The Bow & Arrow. (Hunger Games, Avengers, Brave)

Brave Hawkeye Hunger Games

 

The Coolest Equipment of the year: The Bat Pod (yeah!!!)

Batpod

 

Dialog of the year: “Ok, I am drawing a line in the F*cking sand. DO NOT Read the Latin!” – Marty to Dana, in Cabin in the Woods. Dana promptly reads the Latin & unleashes 11 kinds of hell

Comeback of the year: “Big man in a suit of armour. Take that off, what are you?” “Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist.” – Tony Stark to Steve Roger, Avengers

 

Moment(s) of the year:

1) Hulk Smash Puny God

2) The climatic moments of TDKR

3) When Dana presses the button in Cabin in the Woods

4) The closing sequences of Safety Not Guaranteed. If you cannot help cheering that moment, you probably deserve to watch Ghost Rider 2 & Wrath of Titans for all eternity in an empty theater

 

PS: Same disclaimers as the previous post, Missed all those Oscar level movies in 2012. Catching them up slowly now.Argo & Django brilliant so far

 

PPS: 2012 stats. 51 movies. 24 in theatres (not bad at all) (more if you count the repeated viewing of Avengers, TDKR & Hobbit). Average rating of 7 on IMDB.

It was the year of prequels & sequels, some more sequel than the other. It was the year of reboots, resurrections & rebirths, some unsuccessful, some more so. It was the year when the earth was saved & the earth was destroyed. It was the year when aliens visited (nay, invaded) the earth & earthlings visited other worlds. It was the year when directors returned to their roots (& made you wonder why). It was the year when vampires were created, awakened & destroyed. It was the year when super spies undertook shady activities & shady characters undertook super activities. It was the year when aging stars “tried” to rock their way through music & bash their way through action, while aged stars bashed their way successfully & got presidential. It was the year when a movie involving a stoned teddy bear proved to be more fun than a party involving stoned teenagers. It was the year where you traveled through time or did you?. It was the year when kids behaved like adults & adults behaved like kids

Finally, it was also the year where bad guys (again) committed the cardinal sin of kidnapping the wife & daughter of the man who trained Batman & Obi-Wan Kenobi, played Zeus & Aslan, and fights wolves with bare hands

Personally for me, it was a year where my watch list just kept on expanding, I went through a 2 month phase without watching any movies, caught a few movies that I probably should not have, missed a few I should not have among others, averaged a new movie a week in theatres while in the US (what relief is it to not pre-book movies on Wednesdays). I ended up watching movies that were pure fun, pure crap, interesting (sometimes all in the same movie as well). To come up with a best of the year is a particularly challenging task, especially given the year we had, all the movies missed & most of the movies in the list below were solid imdb 8s/9s for me. In light of all that, rather than calling them just best of the year, I would call them movies that had an impact (positive) on me, either in terms of fun, made me think & contemplate, made me give a major fist bump at the climax or generally made me laugh & wonder. In alphabetical order, the movies of the year

1)      21 Jump Street: Among the best comedies of the year, 21 Jump Street comprised of an unlikely pairing of Jonah Hill & Channing Tatum, cops owing to their youthful (baby-faced) looks, sent back to high school to uncover a drug operation & find the dealers & suppliers. A role reversal of sorts for the 2 as back in school, it’s now the nerds who are the cool things while jocks are looked down upon & how each takes their roles too seriously. A foul mouthed hilarious performance by Ice Cube, a delightful cameo by a star and terrific chemistry between Channing Tatum & Jonah Hill with not a single dull moment make this one of the genuinely chuckle-worthy movies of the year

21 Jump Street

2)      Headhunters: In this age where CGI effects & action set pieces pretty much rule the roost, it is refreshing to see a thriller that relies on a strong plot & a strong sense of dread & suspense to keep things moving. Headhunters, belonging to the Swedish crime thriller genre, has Roger Brown, a niche recruiter for companies, who has a lucrative side business as an art thief, who steals from the candidates he recommends to jobs until he crosses the wrong man, Clas Greve. What follows is a cat & mouse chase and a menacing turn from the enigmatic & charismatic Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Clas Greve.  Murders, betrayals & intrigue are served in heavy doses as the movie rushes towards its gripping climax

Headhunters

3)      Looper: Too often in science fiction movies involving the future & time travel, too much importance is given to the nature of time travel & technology placing them at the center of the movie. In Looper, time travel is merely an enabler to set up the story which involves Bruce Willis forced to travel back 30 years in time to face death at the hands of his younger self played by Joseph Gordon Levitt, a process called closing the loop, a process used by mob to kill people in the future. Bruce Willis however has other plans & has traveled back in time to prevent the future from happening. A thrilling ride ensues as both characters try to escape from the mob that is after them while their destiny leads them inevitably towards each other. A niftily directed movie, Looper is a clever movie anchored by great performances by Bruce Willis, JGL & Emily Blunt. While JGL’s make up to look like Bruce Willis is distracting initially, the mannerisms of Bruce Willis that JGL imitates, right up to the talk & the way they cock their head is quite something to watch

Looper

4)      Moonrise Kingdom: A pair of younger underage misfit minor lovers runaway together causing an upheaval in the 1960 New England town, Moonrise Kingdom is a delightfully charming & quirky tale of young love & the reactions they provoke across the board. Wes Anderson infuses his movie with a delightful color palette while treating his precocious lovers with gravitas. A seemingly light hearted romp is anything but that. Scratch the surface & Moonrise Kingdom is in fact a look at how certain kids are misunderstood owing to their non-conformance to societal standards, standards set by adults, who break societal rules per their convenience. Sterling performances by the lead pair of Jared Gilman & Kara Hayward & admirably supported by Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray & Frances McDormand, Moonrise Kingdom is one hell of a charming movie

Moonrise Kingdom

5)      Safety Not Guaranteed: Exploring a newspaper ad about a man seeking partners for time travel, a reporter & a couple of interns land up to determine if the man is a fraud or not. Arising from this set of circumstances is this truly special movie which on one side is a look at the motivations of people wanting to time travel while on the other end is an exploration into the fact that going back to your roots, to the place you spent your most memorable parts of your life & attempting to rekindle it, is time travel of sorts. Aubrey Plaza, keeping in line with her past efforts, stars as a summer intern who quite does not fit in anywhere. Mark Duplass essays the challenging role of portraying a character who either might be the inventor of the time machine or the biggest fraud out there. This is a movie that keep us guessing right throughout. Delightfully snarky, charming, offbeat & optimistic, Safety Not Guaranteed makes you root for each character, be it Aubrey Plaza or Mark Duplass or the shifty slacking reporter or the shy Indian intern who takes up the reporting internship for diversity needed for grad school application

SNG

6)      The Avengers: Possibly the entertainer of the year, Joss Whedon achieved the impossible. He brought together a set of disparate characters in an entirely fun filled action packed romp that takes great care to keep things moving or blowing things up while at the same time ensuring some character development, bonding, storming takes place when characters butt heads (literally in some cases). While really stands out is how one thing leads to the other in the movie, while the movie is skin deep as best. This was probably the movie that we needed to see atleast one half of the heroes we want united on the big screen. Grand on scale, ideas, technology & geekiness, it’s a fun filled romp

Avengers Big

7)      The Cabin in the Woods: Horror movie of the year, this is in reality not a horror movie at all. Motivated by the disturbing trend in horror movies towards torture hack & slash porn, Whedon & Goddard create what is the cleverest & the sharpest movie of the year. Or as they call it, a loving hate letter to the horror genre. This is a movie that is not what it appears is very evident from the first frame. However, just when you think you have gotten what lies beneath the movie, comes another yank of the carpet. Ambitious in idea, scale & execution, The Cabin in the Woods is as wicked as its title is generic. Delightfully clever & cruelly cute, The Cabin the Woods stands out among the releases of 2012

The Cabin in the Woods

8)      The Dark Knight Rises: An ending to Nolan’s remarkable journey with Batman, the movie does suffer in comparison with its predecessors. Ultimately, what makes the movie stand out is the fact that it is the culmination of a journey. And in a way, it comes full circle. Whatever happens in the movie, the feeling that you get towards the end of the movie, is something that has to be experienced to be believed. Ambitious (even if it does not take it all the way), depressing (a statement of our times), this is a proper summer blockbuster movie

TDKR

9)      The Grey: For a movie whose trailers promised men being chased by wolves & Liam Neeson fighting them barehanded in the cold Alaskan environment, The Grey is misleading. It is a deeply introspective movie on survival, group dynamics, grief, isolation & terror. Liam Neeson delivers a subtly nuanced performance on a suicidal wolf hunter who realizes his survival instincts are stronger than his grief. Battling the conditions, hunted by a pack of killer wolves, The Grey stays in your mind for a long time with an ending that is deeply satisfying

The Grey

10)   Wreck-it Ralph: Possibly the best animated movie of the year, Wreck-it Ralph is a joy ride through the game of video games. However, the heart of the movie is an exploration of what it means to be a hero. Terrific action, animation, humor, voice acting & detailed game worlds, this is a movie filled with tons of inside jokes & especially for those folks who grew up playing games on the Nintendo consoles, tons of recognizable characters. An animated movie that focuses on character development & the plot over the gimmicks, Wreck-it Ralph is the movie of the year with the greatest heart.

Wreck-It-Ralph

Honorable mentions:

1)      Ted: A movie on a teddy bear that smokes, dopes & indulges in general debauchery, why wouldn’t this movie be fun. A weak & uneven third act prevents the movie from being a classic

2)      The Raid Redemption: Easily the action movie of the year. Features a one man (at times, two) army rampaging through a building as part of a police raid gone wrong. Fast-paced, brutal, violent & no-holds barred, it is fist thumping, head-breaking, knuckle-busting action at its best

Well, not all movies can be hunky dory & be good. With great expectation, there is also chance of great disappointment & 2012 featured some movies that would adorn the walls of all time clunkers effortlessly. Some of these movies had simply pathetic story telling (or no story at all), high expectations, misleading trailers, disinterested or just-going-through-the-motions actors looking for a paycheck or hamming it up big time (Yes, Nic Cage, I am looking at you) or a combination of all of the above.

The Facepalm movies of 2012

Baby Facepalm

Epic Facepalm

1)      Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

2)      Underworld: Awakening

3)      Resident Evil: Retribution

4)      Project X

5)      The Wrath of Titans

Dishonorable Mentions: Dark Shadows, Battleship

2012 movies missed out that could potentially have landed in the best movies list:

Paranorman, Argo, Silver Linings Playbook, Seven Psychopaths, Flight, Skyfall, Zero Dark Thirty, Django Unchained, Chronicle & Hotel Transylvania

Next Post: The 2012 Beanbag Critic Awards

Sometimes the greatest achievement of a story is to make you feel conflicted about a character when by all regards due to his/her actions, you are supposed to be entirely one dimensional in your feelings towards the character. Admittedly, it is a tad easier to do the same in movies than in books since in most cases, we tend to bring in our past subconscious biases & prejudices about the actor to the character that he/she is portraying.  Richard Gere’s character & performance in Arbitrage is one such achievement where despite all that his character does & behaves on screen, despite all his foibles, his mistakes, his apathy, his selfishness, there is a small part inside you that roots for him & hopes that he gets out of the troubles of his own making

 

 

By all definitions, one should loathe Robert Miller (Richard Gere), the founder & owner of Miller Capital. While the suave urbane exterior proclaims him as the consummate Wall Street businessman, a very clever wheeler dealer, it’s the other activities that cause his life to spiral out of control. A$400M hole in his balance sheet that leads to a delay in the proposed takeover of his company being one of them while he adds onto his troubles by fleeing from an accident scene, one he created, causing the death of his mistress. He faces the possibility of being sent to jail for involuntary manslaughter & the case is being pursued tenaciously. Given the situation, Miller begins to crack as he tries to desperately manipulate, scheme, & connive his way out of all that. It is in that situation that a small part of you starts rooting for the guy. Despite the fact that he deserves his fate, as you see him do everything to escape unscathed, you cannot help but remain involved with him. Here is someone who has cheated his family, investors, potential acquirer through his own stupid actions and yet, you want everything to work out for him. That indeed is quite an achievement for the first time director, Nicholas Jarecki

 

Engrossing & anchored by superb performances by Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth & Brit Marling (yet another impressive performance), don’t miss the movie

 

PS: In one of the sequences, Miller signs up a document that lists the address for Miller Capital as 717 5th Avenue, NYC. That was the address of MF Global which declared bankruptcy as it tried to address the $1.6B hole in its balance sheet. Coincidence, anyone?

 

No direct spoilers but yes, if you read between the lines, you should get it. So beware J (especially those of you who have been hiding under the rock and have not seen the movie)

This is not going to be a review. Its far too late for that & quite a few of them have already surfaced & been devoured the way any prime real estate has been devoured by our politicians (see what I did there). These are things that I jotted down during the repeated viewings of the movie & finally got a chance to document it

1. First things first, TDKR is not TDK or Batman Begins. Given the collective expectations around Nolan & the movie, it was going to be a massive triumph just to get a movie out. In that regards, TDKR is a damn fine comic book movie but not a great movie that way TDK or Batman Begins was.

2. <<SPOILER ALERT>> That being said, you cannot help having a huge (I mean it, literally huge) smile at the end of the movie. Nolan may not have satisfied the critic in you but he definitely makes the fan boy in you take a major inner whoop & celebrate. All you can do is to restrain from yourselves from hugging the person sitting next to you & generally beam outwards in barely concealed joy <<SPOILER END>>

3. TDKR is pretty much the conclusion of a great journey that began in Batman Begins. While TDK is a movie of a lifetime, Batman Begins is pretty much the movie for me. Why TDKR is all the more special for me, is the way it ties in to Batman Begins. Liam Neeson in Batman Begins in his process of educating Bale mentions that the Batman needs to be something more, he needs to be “A Legend, Mr. Wayne” & that to me, is the theme of TDKR (even if telegraphed quite openly right from the beginning)

4. Too many things to gush about which have all been captured elsewhere. Nolan’s story, direction, ideas & action set-ups; Bale’s acting; A phenomenally awesome score by Hans Zimmer; The IMAX experience (This movie has to be seen in Imax); No 3D (yaay); Brutal combat sequences; The tie-ins to the 1st 2 movies

5. There are too many things that do not work as well in the movie as well. Bane’s motives; Bruce Wayne’s apparent recovery from all injuries (no cartilage eh?); The Put options trade (deserves a post on its own); Too many convenient appearances; the rushed relationship between Bruce & Miranda among others

6. I was among those who really did not want a Catwoman in the movie when the casting was announced (memories of that therapy-requiring horrible Halle Berry movie still surface despite being repressed deeply). But Anne Hathaway blows one away in a powerhouse performance. Slinky, seductive, capricious, & wickedly selfish, she steals every scene that she is in.

7. Tom Hardy’s terrific body of work continues as Bane. An extension of his roles in Bronson & Warrior, his representation as a physical opponent of Batman is perfect. He is brutal & reflects this in fighting technique as well. Despite the mask hiding most of his face, he packs enough emotions & expressions through his eyes than what Katie Holmes manages in the entire 1st movie

8. I was not really surprised at Joseph Gordon-Levitt knowing who Batman was. I had kind of rationalized it by imagining Joseph Gordon to be the kid who was with Katie Holmes when they are saved in the Narrows by Batman in Batman Begins. I had expected that of Nolan. But we all knew that kid grew up to become Joffrey Baratheon (& got bitch slapped by Peter Dinklage)

9. Michael Caine’s confrontation with Bale is one of the most powerful moment of the movie & brilliantly acted. Its also a moment in the movie where silence is used effectively. There is no background music in the movie. A brilliantly shot scene

10. That moment, the 1st sighting of Batman in the movie was really something. As the cop says to his junior, “Oh boy, you are in for a show tonight, son” perfectly sums it up. It reminded me of that scene in Superman Returns movie (Hey, I love that movie, ok?), when Superman reappears to save the out-of-control aircraft(An interesting comparison, Superman arrives to save the day when something really big goes down whereas Batman is more of an on-the-ground kind of guy, the stakes do not seem that high but yes, they are. Discussion material for another post, I guess)

11. The sequence when Selina Kyle disappears when Batman turns away was an awesome moment. Plus his dialogue J

12.Logically speaking, Bane is the child of 2 legacies; Ra’s al Ghul & Joker. Ra’s’ through the destruction of Gotham & the Joker’s through pushing people to act like a mob & make them lose the sense of all propriety. I guess that was the point that Nolan did not push the envelope on. Joker’s play on the 2 boats in TDK is probably one of the strongest parts in the movie. Through Bane, this could have been played along further. There are early indications of that when Selina Kyle whispers to Bruce Wayne during the ball to the discussion between the cops & the trader at the stock exchange. Nolan subverts that debate to a great extent by having the prisoners freed from Blackgate do the dirty work of dragging the rich from their homes onto the street, rather than the 99%. I guess a more powerful ambitious movie would be how Batman (or Bruce Wayne) restores the status quo of when the poor, the homeless, the 99% (metaphorically speaking) are with Bane for addressing the imbalance. Would he take on the people of Gotham to save Gotham? (But I am sure such a movie might not be run that well in the theatres)

13. I guess, this is the biggest problem I have with TDKR. Batman actually KILLS someone in the climax of the movie. That sequence when he shoots down the driver sitting next to Talia from The Bat. It again ties into the problem I had in Batman Begins when he does not save Ra’s from the speeding train crash. The acknowledged Batman lore in comics as well as the animated series is that the Batman does not kill anyone and goes out of his way to save people (even if they are the bad guys) (remember, the scene is TDK where he saves the Joker)

14. Overall though, this has to be one of the finest trilogies of all time or as the Guardian puts it, The Godfather of our times. If I were stuck in an island with a choice of 5 movies (or movie series) to take, this would be my 1st choice.

15. I really really really want The Bat & The Bat Pod!!!!!!

“You think you’re the only superhero in the world? Mr. Stark, you’ve become part of a bigger universe. You just don’t know it yet. I’m here to talk to you about the Avenger Initiative”

These lines uttered by the incomparable Samuel L Jackson as Nick Fury in Iron Man, was the seed that excited all of us, towards the Avengers project. An excitement that kept on increasing with the release of every subsequent Marvel movies, creating the concept of a shared universe & ultimately, the dream of many a fan in the form of the Avengers movie. With so much excitement & expectation riding on the movie, the overriding fear was that the movie would disappoint. However, in the capable hands of Joss Whedon, the answer is a resounding positive thumbs up & it’s a movie that not just satisfies but delivers a compelling fun filled action packed summer blockbuster movie

Avengers Assemble!!!!

 

The Avengers movie is a strange beast. In itself, it’s the first of (hopefully) many Avengers movie while on the other hand, it is the culmination of the multifarious threads drawn from the Iron Man, Hulk, Thor & Captain America movies. It has the advantage of the stars already established with their characters but also faces the challenge of introducing new characters in this movie while also ensuring that all characters get their due & no one character runs away with the movie (RDJ as Iron Man does his best to do so)

One of the biggest fears is a movie like Avengers lies in the storyline. A dense storyline especially for the 1st movie could sink it. Whedon avoid this problem by keeping things very simple. Loki wants to use the Tesseract, a cube of enormous cosmic power, to rule the Earth with the aid of his army. The stakes are sufficiently high enough for the mightiest heroes of the world to unite against Loki to save the day

Sounds simple enough. Except that with great superpower comes great super ego. The fun in a movie like this is watching the heroes stand together & fight a common enemy. However, the real fun in the movie is watching the clashes between Iron Man, Captain America & Thor. Each of these heroes bring their own personalities quirks to the table & as Bruce Banner says “We are not a team but a time bomb”

Whedon brings his A-game to the movie. The pacing is just about perfect & the dialogs & the one-liners are snappy & humorous to keep the audience engaged. RDJ as Iron Man pretty much is the rock star of the movie. Snarky, independent, & with loads of attitude, he pretty tries to run away with the movie. Chris Evans as Captain America is solid. To be fair, his was the character that I thought would get lost in the movie but his portrayal as the man out of time & trying to do the right thing is brilliant. His standing up to RDJ & taking charge of the team comes naturally.

Marvel had tried a couple of Hulk movies before this with not that great a success. However, on the basis of Mark Ruffalo’s performance, the calls for a 3rd Hulk movie should increase. Ruffalo is included in the team primarly as a Gamma Ray expert than for Hulk but its amazing to watch him battle the beast within. His performance as Bruce Banner is brilliant as well as heart breaking when he responds on the number of ways he has tried to escape the beast. As Hulk, he provides some of the best moments on the movie. & the look on Loki’s face. You will realize what I am talking about when you see the movie. (Trust me, it is one of the scenes of the movie)

Joss Whedon’s strength in developing well rounded & strong female characters was pretty evident in Buffy as well as the ill-fated Firefly & Dollhouse & this extends to Avengers as well. Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow gets a really good character development compared to the Iron Man 2 movie. Her introduction interrogation scene as well as her interrogation with Loki are brilliant. Her interactions with Bruce Banner & Hawkeye are compelling.

The SHIELD members in the form of Nick Fury & Agent Coulson get key roles. It is great to see Nick Fury take up the leadership role compared to the small roles that he had been getting in the other movies. Agent Coulson, now a firm fan favorite, gets to play a very key role & goes further in cementing his place in everyone’s mind. We also get our first introduction to Maria Hill (Fury’s right hand). She does not have that big a role to play in this movie but might expand in the forthcoming movies.

Thor has the best introduction of the lot. He is sufficiently arrogant & physical as befitting a god. However, in the roster of actors, his is the one that gets a bit short changed & there has not been much of a difference between his role from Thor. Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye gets his first proper role in the Avengers universe & he does justice to his role & does not feel out of place for a bow & arrow guy (Jeremy Renner has now become part of several multi-starrer movies with most of them becoming good hits. His real challenge would be to prove that he can carry a movie on his own & achieve commercial success. The Bourne Legacy ought to be interesting in that regard)

Loki was probably the most conflicted character of last year based on his performance in Thor. While none of the internal conflict appears in this movie, he is still a compelling villain. He is so compelling because he is in fact weak & is driven by the need to prove himself worthy & to be better than Thor. Tom Hiddleston captures that lean hungry famished visage brilliantly.

The action sequences are suitably over the top for a summer blockbuster movie & the takedown of New York is awesome. There is so much & more packed in the 2 hours that there is no dull moment.

The only real drawback is the lack of an engaging background score. At no point in the movie did there seem a distinct background score standing out to identify it was an Avengers movie. Most superhero movies have  a distinct score to help identify themselves. Superman with that regal John Williams score or Nolan’s Batman with that haunting brooding Zimmer score or Iron Man with the Rock score are clear stand outs.

The other major drawback is that only Marvel Studios knows when the next Avengers movie is going to come out. Gosh, the wait already seems unbearable.

In short, go see the Avengers. One of the best & definitely, one of the most fun superhero movies.

PS: “Hulk Smash” has to be one of the lines of the movie

PPS: The SHIELD Helicarrier did not disappoint. It performs the same role as it does in the comics. (& its not what you think)

PPPS: As is their wont, a nice after the credits scene

PPPPS: Not fair from Marvel to add another after the credits scene for the US markets & not release it for international audiences L

Now that 2010 has officially been declared close (by the Oscars), this blog decides to take a look at the top movies of the year. 2010 in retrospect was a year, where one could be forgiven for wanting to kill James Cameron for having unleashed the spectre of 3D on unsuspecting audiences, who were forced to shell out extra rupes, dollars & pounds on movies, hastily & randomly converted to rake in the moolah (Yes, I am looking at you, Alice in Blunderland & Crass of the Titans). Having vented that out & resigned to the fate of watching more movies in that infernal format, here is a look at the top 15 movies of the year. This list is derived from a multitude of parameters including mind bending awesomeness of the movie, entertainment factor, presentation, general cinematic experience, ability to make one think, perfectly leave-your-brain-at-home movies (the last 2 categories are MECE) & last but not the least, strong personal bias from my side (the tipping factor, if one must label it). Without much ado, here goes:

15. Fair Game: Based on the Valerie Plame-gate & with Noami Watts playing Valerie Plame, Fair Game is the story of a couple trying to get justice & their honor back, after a senior Bush Administration official (Dick Cheney’s chief of staff) blows Valerie Plame’s cover as a CIA agent to get back at her husband, Joe Wilson (Sean Penn), who countered the US government’s allegation on the proof of the Iraq invasion. Fantastically acted out, both Naomi Watts & Sean Penn do a phenomenal job portraying the couple whose lives are rocked by this incident. The impact of the leak & subsequent fight for truth put much a strain on their personal & professional lives. The screenplay is easy & expositions are helpful allowing one to understand the importance of Valerie’s & Wilson’s work. However, this leads to a slack in the screenplay & sometimes, not much really seems to be happening. Compelling & engrossing, Fair Game does pack a punch, not by angry words or by adopting a tone of righteousness but by presenting facts from the point of view of the Wilsons & also taking a hard cold look at the manner of functioning of the Bush administration. A movie that probably could have been more successful at the box office if it had been publicized well;

14. Conviction: A tale of justice, based on a true story, Conviction probably hooked me in due to the star cast, the very talented Sam Rockwell & Hilary Swank (really, no adjectives required), starring as siblings whose troubled childhood fosters a very close bond between them. When Sam Rockwell is unjustly accused of murder & sent to jail, Hilary Swank vows to fight on & enrolls in law school, to fight for her brother’s acquittal. A performance oriented drama, both Rockwell & Swank are extremely believable & unshakeable in their conviction (all pun intended) of Rockwell’s innocence. Swank as the lawyer who really does not give up, even if it takes a toll on her personal life & Rockwell, as the convict, who goes through a myriad of emotions in jail; simply steal every scene they appear in, without overpowering the frame. A slow pace notwithstanding, one of the very poignant movies of the year

14. The Town: First things first, Ben Affleck should not act. He could give really stiff competition to Keanu Reeves & a block of wood. But he really should continue directing. Town is about a gang of bank robbers, primarily though focusing on 2 members, Ben Affleck & Jeremy Renner. Town is about Ben Affleck developing feelings for a manager (Rebecca Hall) of a previous bank heist, while simultaneously planning the proverbial last bank heist. Into this simmering mix are additional complications arising from Rebecca Hall being the only person who can identify the, if she casts eyes on Jeremy Renner to Jeremy Renner’s increasing unsteadiness to FBI bringing in heat to the town to identify & stop the bank robbers. A slickly shot movie, there is a sense of doom that Affleck manages to capture throughout the movie. Taunting & drawing out certain moments, there is deftness in the handling of the movie. Jeremy Renner deserves credit for his portrayal of the unsteady psychopath-like bank robber. What differentiates this from other heist movies in recent times is the seriousness of the approach. There is no easy bonding, no light moments, no wise cracks. Just serious, hard gritty angles

13. Shutter Island: Martin Scorsese & Leonardo DiCaprio’s combination has to rank among the best director-actor combination over the last few years & is as yummy a combination as cheese on pizza. In Shutter Island, Scorsese & DiCaprio create a vivid, taut psychological thriller based on the premise of a US Marshall visiting Shutter Island, which houses a hospital for the criminally insane, to investigate the disappearance of an inmate. Soon, into the movie, we realize things are not as they seem and there are layers & layers, not the least with Leonardo DiCaprio himself. DiCaprio excels in playing these conflicted characters & makes excellent use of his voice & eyes to get his point across. A moody background score, a desolate island, terrific cinematography does well to allay the almost predictable ending & not-so-well used supporting cast

12. Green Zone: A movie which if it has released 2-3 years back would have had a greater impact than when it did eventually release. Paul Greengrass & Matt Damon reunite after the Bourne series in this movie based on the hunt for WMDs in Iraq. Matt Damon stars as a weapons inspector, who after finding no signs of WMD, goes rogue, hunting for proof of the lie. Filled with fairly smarmy characters, Green Zone exposes some of the fabrications that took place behind the invasion of Iraq. However, the real star of the movie is an Iraqi christened Freddie by the Damon. His demeanor reflects what the Iraqis feel to an extent about the US invasion as well as the deals that were struck. While the ending is not much of a surprise, the movie is hard-hitting and takes a cold look at the manner in which the Bush administration manipulated the press to cover the war in its favor (atleast initially) as well as the role of the private military contractors & the fragile peace process negotiations. Matt Damon deserves special credit as it is impossible to envisage off any other star going through what Damon has done. He basically relegates himself to a supporting character, mainly reacting to events rather than controlling them. Paul Greengrass, again demonstrates the same hyper energy that filled the Bourne series to the proceedings here, shaky cameras and all.

11. The Ghost Writer: One of the most under-rated movies of the year & I, for one, was really surprised that such a phenomenal movie did not get its due anywhere. A Roman Polanski movie, Ghost Writer stars Pierce Brosnan as a retired British PM (very heavily modeled on Tony Blair), who hired Ewan McGregor to ghost write his memoirs. Brosnan, who now lives in US, is facing calls from home regarding his role in the US invasion of Iraq, & how he acted as a pawn of the US in authorizing the use of British troops. Also in question is his approval on the torture activities conducted. Further complicating the plot is the murder of the previous ghost writer. Stirring up this decidedly volatile cauldron is Olivia Williams as the former first lady (again heavily modeled on Cherie Blair), who believes that Pierce Brosnan is having an affair with his secretary & drives her own agenda with Ewan McGregor. A movies that unfolds at its own pace, narrative & plotting reign supreme. Bleak landscape, taut & terse dialogs, exemplary character acting from everyone, shadows at every corner, it is indeed a movie densely packed with intrigue & politicking. McGregor truly shines as he does in most roles where he has to be a bit submissive. Olivia Williams steals the show with her acerbic & cynical retorts. But the real scene stealer is Pierce Brosnan. Brosnan as an actor has never really appealed to me. He is more of a showman. But here he literally gets into the skin of the character. Haughty, arrogant, stubborn & proud, he perfectly captures each emotion & spares no one. Cinematography is quite brilliant. In keeping with the mood of the movie, the landscape is quite grey, bleak & somber. Ghost Writer would have been the movie of the year if not for a blotchy abrupt ending which spoils the movie & pushed its ranking down

10. Megamind: In one word, fun with a capital F. Based on the premise on what would a supervillian do once he defeats his arch nemesis, the all popular superhero, this is a fun romp. Megamind has done the inconceivable. He has defeated the superman-esque Metro Man & has conquered Metro City (pronounce similar to atrocity) & finds existence now pointless. Deciding that he needs a superhero to fight, he creates a superhero. But the superhero turns out to be a douche bag of the highest order & its upto Megamind to save the day. A hilarious romp, incorporating elements from Superman stories, easily one of the most entertaining movies of the year. Will Ferrell as Megamind is simply astounding in his voice control & delivery. Tina Fey rocks as the Lois Lane inspired Roxanne Ritchie. With no dull moment & a rocking script with enough tongue-in-cheek moments, Megamind combines snappy dialogs with amazingly goofy & slapstick moments to keep you rolling, long after the movie is done & a villain to side with.

9. The Fighter: Another movie based on a true story, The Fighter traces the story of Mickey Ward (Mark Wahlberg), a boxer and the complicated relationship that he has with his drug addicted ex-boxer brother Dickey Edlund (Christian Bale), who also couples as his trainer, on his quest to score victories as a professional boxer. Bale delivers another fantastic performance as the shadow of the boxer he once was before getting into drugs. The entire weight loss, nervous jerky motions, quick darting eyes while at the same time caring for his brother’s career is another tour de force performance in an already chequered career. Mellisa Leo & Amy Adams add their weight to the growing relationships around Wahlberg. The fight scenes are fairly well shot for a boxing movie & you can actually feel the blood. If one has to point out a memorable scene that reminds us about the specialty of the movie, its when Bale tries to run away from the cops, a entire jerky flappy motion of the arms while running. The moment comes when he is caught by the cops, he straightens & delivers an upper-cut reminiscent of a boxer in his prime; in that one moment showing what he was & what he could have become, if he had not been drug addicted & had his brain addled.

First thing first, I am not a fan of the Big Blue as I am of Batman & Wolverine. It is not his fault really. The creators & writers of Superman have made him so powerful & loaded him with so many powers; there is not much that he cannot do. Most of the time (especially when working with other superheroes), Superman is pretty much negated by random events or sent on a different quest, to amplify the sense of danger. Despite all the indifference & general boring-ness of Superman, there is no sight as gratifying in comic books to watch Superman flying in at the last minute to save the day. Superman represents Hope (Sorry, Barry Allen) stronger than any other comic book character. He is truly iconic

All Star Superman

Some of the best Superman stories are the ones which normally take place in an elseworld scenario or an out of continuity storyline. Mark Millar’s Red Son is one such storyline which involves Superman’s spacecraft crashlanding in Soviet & changing the face of the Cold War. Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely’s All Star Superman is another book that is an all time Superman classic because it is unashamedly a love letter to Superman, detailing all those qualities of Superman that make him really special & in a sense, the ideal characteristics that any human being should strive for.

DC Entertainment & Warner Bros Animation take the comic to the next level & make All Star Superman as a movie & How does the movie fare? First things first, you know the cliché, the movie is never as good as the book. It holds true. However, comparing the movie to the comic & saying it does not do a good job is like comparing the Sun to the star Sirius & saying that the Sun is not bright enough. What the movie accomplishes is capturing the key ideas that Morrison has and bringing it to life on the big screen, while maintaining the spirit of Superman all throughout, in some cases, by using the exact same panels from Quitely’s outstanding art work & panels.

Lex Luthor poisoning & condemning Superman to a slow death & The Man of Steel spending his remaining time on Earth doing good, saving the planet, making peace with himself & trying to advance the world forms the tent of the storyline. Grant Morrison has 12 issues to chart out the 12 impossible tasks (ala 12 labours of Hercules) that Superman achieves in his remaining time on Earth. This being a brisk 76 min movie, some of the tasks are retained, some condensed & some dropped.

With time running short, Superman confides to Lois Lane that he is Clark Kent & tried to forge a much more meaningful relationship with her. Lois Lane’s reaction & her subsequent refusal to believe the same are well shot. Similarly, her birthday gift & Superman’s impossible task has been captured beautifully. Plus there is the iconic panel shot at the end of Lois’ birthday that is beautifully brought to life.

At the other end, one has Lex Luthor on the death row, still supremely haughty & arrogant & suffused with megalomania. His interview with Clark Kent & subsequent comparison he makes of Clark Kent & Superman is amazing. In fact, the entire prison sequence where Superman in the guise of Clark Kent tried to save Luthor from a prison riot while keeping Luthor unaware of Superman’s action has been awesomely shot.

The last act which involves Luthor escaping from jail, armed with Superman serum that lasts for 24 hours, while Solaris the tyrant star, approaches to extinguish earth’s sun & the Man of Steel close to death culminates in a fantastic finale.

While most of the threads from Morrison’s work has been captured, there were a few that really should have made it to the movie at the expense of the others. The plot line involving the 2 missing Kryptonians taking up residence on Earth, & remodeling Earth after Krypton, while insulting Superman was probably needless. Superman talking to a suicidal girl & encouraging her to embrace life should have really made it to the screen as is the plotline involving Superman’s dad’s death. That was particularly poignant. Both the sequences help us understand who Superman really is.

As always, the voice casting is phenomenal. James Denton as Superman was brilliant. He was able to easily differentiate his voice when playing Clark Kent & Superman. Christina Hendricks as Lois Lane was a revelation. She got into the skin of Lois fantastically well. At times playful, at times purposeful, at time paranoid, always hopeful, Christina nailed it. Ultimately though, it was Anthony LaPaglia as Lex Luthor who was the scene-stealer. Haughty, arrogant, contemptuous, mocking & with a hint of madness, Anthony plays Lex Luthor perfectly. His conversation with Clark Kent in prison conveys all of that & more.

Kudos to Dwayne McDuffie. Adapting a 12 issue, packed with details story to a 75 min movie is no mean task. Sam Liu, Bruce Timm & Andrea Romano continue their stellar work in the DC Universe. Considering DC’s success adapting epic & iconical storylines to the animated screen, one can say that this team is behind all of it.

Next, Batman: Year One anyone?

Rating: 9 out of 10

PS: The initial few seconds when the voice-over starts with “Doomed Planet. Desperate Scientists. Last Hope. Kindly Couple” and then, depicting Quitely’s panels as they are on the comic, is total goose bump raising. I think I fell in love with the movie at that point itself

First Panel