Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

As always just before the Oscars get underway, it’s time to recognize those movies that usually don’t get such love but fundamentally serve the purpose of entertaining. The big spectacle, the joy of watching things blow up on screen, the action set pieces – all make up for a heady cocktail to justify paying the price of a ticket and hopefully the entertainment. With that in mind, if there was one word to really describe 2016 movies – the word would really have to be middling

 

Disappointing would be too strong a word but it’s something approaching that when one takes a look at the list. Movies content to coast by, resting on the success of their predecessors thinking that itself might bring the crowds in. Narrative coherence was the other aspect of it as well. So much so that by the end of the year if a filmmaker could weave 20 mins of a coherent story, the movie stood up pretty well. It was also a year where mommy issues dominated the 2 biggest releases of the year – be it “Martha” or “He killed my mother”. Studio interference ruled the biggest franchises leading to muddled visions on screen and more criminally, betraying customer trust as movies on screen completely were different from what was shown in the trailers – a trend likely to continue in 2017 as well.

 

Without much ado, (there really isn’t much anyways), the best of 2017

 

Captain America: Civil War – Or how even the best cowboys have mommy issues

captain-america-civil-war

 

Billed as Avengers 2.5, this was in more ways than one a defining movie for Marvel. Adapted in spirit (if nothing else) from the comic book event of the same name, Marvel had to break the bank in more ways than one to get this off ground, Robert Downey’s contract as well as the wrangling with Sony to get Spiderman in. A packed movie based on the fundamental question on who provides oversight to the superheroes, the movie spent probably even less time on it than the comics while continuing the Winter Soldier storyline, while introducing Black Panther and Spiderman to this world as well, while staying true to the vision that it was a Captain America movie and not Avengers. A fairly heavy plate that was balanced in the true Marvel style employing humor, sarcasm, witty one-liners and a terrific mid movie airport sequence that gets all players a moment to shine. Chris Evans truly does shine in the role while a moody RDJ plays a different role compared to his usual self. Chadwick Bosemen proves to be a phenomenal fit as the Black Panther, all quiet menace, barely concealed anger and immense gravitas while Tom Holland as Spidey is quite charming, gawky and a motor mouth. While the Marvel formula is often derided for being well formulaetic, it’s difficult to be that critical when things work as well as they do here. The House of Ideas keeps marching on

 

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them or hey, you know what America needs right now,  a story on how illegal aliens cause a whole lot of trouble

fantastic-beasts

 

Let’s get a few things out of the way first. I really haven’t liked any of the Harry Potter movies – found their representation of screen very bad. I also don’t like Eddie Redmayne – except for his unhinged, campy, whispery villainous turn in Jupiter Ascending. So FBAWTFT had a whole lot going against it and it still worked. Redmayne’s slightly absent-minded quirky role turned out to be really charming and the novelty of America as the setting worked completely for it even as the special effects on this were truly outstanding. The expansion of the story to cover the Dumbeldore- Grindelwald conflict definitely makes this intriguing as is Redmayne’s connection with the Lestranges.

 

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story or how hindsight is always 20/20

rogue-one

 

For a movie plagued by reshooting troubles, this shaped up really well. In a way, we know what the end point of this movie was going to be. But the very effort of ensuring that it led right up to the opening moments of A New Hope was truly among the goosebumpy moments of the year. It also answers the baffling question on how a truly complicated and deadly weapon like the Death Star would have such a stupid weakness. A diverse cast, impressive location jumping and a fabulous turn by Ben Mendelsohn makes this war movie an engaging one. The Disney strategy of having anthologies along with the Star War sequels was a risky one and Rogue One especially risky given the lack of star names (due apologies to Felicity Jones) but given how successful this turned out to be and with a movie on Han Solo the next one, the force is strongly with them

 

Other notable movies:

  1. Batman v Superman: My thoughts here. Also hampered by the theatrical release. The uncut almost 3 hr movie was way better
  2. Deadpool: Truly R rated and outstanding. Hampered by the fact that Indian censors lacked a sense of humor
  3. Doctor Strange: Iron Man Redux with magic and an American accent spouting Cumberbatch with the RDJ quirks, attitudes and facial hair
  4. Central Intelligence – Fascinating pair of Kevin Hart & Dwayne Johnson – so well done and playing off each other quite well
  5. Star Trek Beyond – A solid entry post the overhyped Wrath of Khan reboot. But whoever came up with the idea of hiding the menace of Idris Elba behind layers of makeup needs an entry pass to Arkham

 

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

 

 

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

A truly remarkable year, the 2014 blockbuster season turned out to be. The usual summer blockbuster season throws up at most 2 or 3 movies that truly can be considered in a best of the year list but this year proved to be a remarkable outlier necessitating a split in my usual best of the year list. A gobsmacking medley of dragons, future tech and dystopian sci-fi combined with what was a strong year for comic book movies (read Marvel) and unconventional indie directors bringing their A-game for big budget movies elevated this year and in the process, sets up quite an unfair expectation for 2015. (Age of Ultron & Star Wars, please don’t suck please don’t suck)

This is indeed an anti-establishment list. A recognition of movies that inevitably are the ones folks wish to flock to and enjoyed on the big screen. This also serves as a recognition for movies that quite do not harbor pretentions of grandeur to quite attempt to make it to an Oscar list as well. While of course this is not meant as an attempt to belittle the movies that aim for the Oscars but the fundamental underlying truth about movies are they are meant to entertain.

In no particular order,

  1. The Lego Movie – How does a movie which came out through the very concept of big culture, franchise and money (read Hasbro) turn out to be the very anti-thesis of it. Supremely witty, cool and espousing individuality, the movie is anchored by some truly cool voice acting, an engaging plot and some truly astounding cameos. Gorgeously shot, the wit and humor in the movie adds luster to what is indeed a heartwarming story. And one cannot watch the movie and not hum Everything is Awesome J. Lego Batman has to the character of the year. Lord & Miller direct what is indeed one of the most self-aware, tongue-in-cheek animated comedies of all times

the_lego_movie2014

  1. Snowpiercer – Snowpiercer is one half of the answer to the question if one can truly make smart science fiction movies. Set in a future frozen earth where the only survivors are on a train that runs around the world perpetually, this is a class warfare movie where the rich stay close to the engine and get to enjoy all the luxuries while the poor stay towards the end of the train in cramped horrendous quarters, subject to random examinations and torture whilst waiting for their next meal to be delivered to them. Led by comic book star Chris Evans (the number of non-superhero comic book moves that the guy has done is simply amazing. A true genre star) and supported by Tilda Swinton (unrecognizable), Jamie Bell and the ever awesome Ed Harris, this is a no-holds-barred movie that has deeper philosophical ruminations and fantastic action set pieces even if downright brutal and bloody. The backstories, the betrayals and the twists keep on coming in what is a hugely ambitious, not an easy to follow movie

Snowpiercer

  1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier – Turning a character who was kind of a running joke in Avengers into a more relevant rounded character is probably the greatest achievement of the movie. A tense suave political thriller that deals with the concept of security and freedom, the title is the weakest link of the movie (along with a saggy mid portion). More of a cop buddy team up of Captain America, Black Widow and the Falcon, the movie rockets in what is now a Marvel Studio template with not too many dull moments and unexpected humorous moments along with great action set pieces. The titular character of Winter Soldier is bit of a blank slate while it’s awesome to see Robert Redford display his usual brand of authority and charm and regal elegance in what is effectively a genre movie. A shout out to the terrific background score from Henry Jackman

Captain America - The Winter Soldier

  1. Godzilla: Gareth Edwards’ Monsters was a supremely under-rated movie that pretty much told a love story in midst of an alien invasion where the focus was on the story and gimmicks of the monster kept to a minimum. Thankfully the same technique is applied here where the focus on the monster, Godzilla, is kept to a minimum until the right moment wherein Gojira is shown in his full glory. Gareth Edwards tries to craft a human story amidst the carnage which works well when Bryan Cranston is on screen but less successfully with Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Ensuring that one forgets the debacle of the previous Godzilla movie, this is a movie with some cool shots. The HALO jump against the silhouette of the Godzilla is among the shots of the year and there is a great money shot of Godzilla which renders the prior shrouding seem like a minor irritant. Clearly, less is more for Gareth Edwards

Godzilla

  1. X-Men: Days of the Future Past – Retroactive continuity changes done well is such a treat and X-Men DOFP needed one such retcon to wash away the stink of X-Men: Last Stand. Adapting the seminal Chris Claremont’s Days of Future Past, and ensuring that Logan (the face of the franchise) makes the trip back in time, this is a wonderful adaptation. With 2 timelines in play, albeit the past playing a bigger role, there is nary a dull moment and the character interactions are fantastically wonderful, be it the simmering anger between James McAvoy & Michael Fassbender or the comfortable familiarity of Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart or the palpable tension between Hugh Jackman and Fassbender or any interaction of McAvoy or Fassbender with Jennifer Lawrence. In midst of all the lead character interactions, Peter Dinklage admittedly gets a raw deal. But the movie makes up with one of the coolest action sequences of the year with the Magneto jailbreak

DOFP

  1. The Raid 2 – How do you top what is the greatest action movie of this decade? By going bigger and being more ambitious. If the Raid was the Godfather of action movie, the Raid 2 is verily the Godfather 2. The action sequences are even more inventive, brutal and violent. This is no-holds barred, take no prisoner level evisceration of the highest order. There is actually an attempt to build a Godfather level storyline which merely serves as moments to catch your breath before the next breathless inventive action set piece is unleashed. Hammers, baseball, and cleaning implements are verily the new weapons of mass destruction.

Raid 2

  1. Edge of Tomorrow – Originally supremely kick-assedly titled All You Need is Kill, the movie weaves the Gorundhog day concept into a kick-ass action movie that runs through the aid of a tight screenplay, nifty editing and terrific moments of humor. Tom Cruise while looking all his age, still has the requisite charisma and everyman bumbling to make the character work while Emily Blunt has that no-nonsense look and attitude down to the T, making you wonder why she hasn’t been tapped to play any of the upcoming female superheroes. While the ending is a bit of a wimp out, that cannot be extended to the rest of the movie. One of the big disappointments remains on how it was such a box office clunker.

Edge of Tomorrow

  1. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – I repeat what I have been saying for a few years now. Someone just create a new category for Motion capture and give Andy Serkis the award, although Toby Kebbell runs him pretty close. A worthy follow up to what was a surprise hit in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, this takes the confrontation between what is a clearly decimated human group and apes to a new level. With fringe elements causing damage at both ends, this is a nuanced thriller.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

  1. Guardians of the Galaxy – Admittedly the riskiest of the Marvel gambles especially given the unfamiliarity of the characters, this turned out to be easily the movie that provided the most awesome fun of the year. James Gunn has to be given all the credit for doing what it took for movies preceding the Avengers to do, establishing the characters and team dynamics in just over 2 hours and making us care of the characters. Chris Pratt proved to be a surprisingly cool lead with genre actress Zoe Saldana further burnishing her creds in this space. Rocket Raccoon was a surprisingly tragic character for a homicidal trigger happy bounty hunter, Groot, for his 3 words, delivered so much with his voice inflection and Drax with his ability to take words literally, make for a supremely entertaining team up. With music playing such a fascinating role in the movie, its really no surprise that this movie ranks among my favorite movies of the year, with the sore point being the fairly one note underdeveloped villain (waste of a role for Lee Pace sadly). The world building is remarkable for a movie that starts fresh and in true Marvel vein, the humor element make it’s a wonderfully engaging movie

Guardians of the Galaxy

  1. John Wick – A Keanu Reeves movie that is undeniably solid fun. The last movie I saw with so much gun kata or gun-fu and body count was the Christian Bale starred Equilibrium. This is a movie that is all style and no substance but what glorious style. The movie makes maximum use of the limited expressions Keanu Reeves is capable of and doesn’t waste too much of the audience’s time in making him try to act. Though to be fair, Keanu Reeves’ façade cracks just enough to express grief before he gets on with his act of reducing the world’s population of mobsters. The charm of the movie also lies in the cameos of notable characters as well as the exclusive neutral grounds territory of a hotel where all the baddies stay.

John Wick

Movies that almost made the list – How to train your dragon 2, Big Hero 6

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

<<Spoilers for Minority Report & Total Recall>>

Who doesn’t love happy endings? We all love & savor happy endings. Often at times, we walk out of movies with a buoyant feel due to a happy ending. Directors feast on that & try to guarantee a happy ending on most occasions. Good defeats evil, the hero get the girl & they live happily ever after, the lone warrior/ranger heads off into the glorious sunset, being classic examples of some happy endings. There are certain stories however that benefit from having a not-so-happy ending (or as they say cynically, a real-life ending). Arlington Road is a classic example of one such movie. It’s a chilling thrilling ride with the kind of ending that would make you uncomfortable because it seems so eminently possible. Ultimately though, happy endings at movies lead to a greater chance of happy endings at the box office because typically, we go to movies to experience happy endings, an escape from the real life. A not-so-happy ending typically depresses us & the word does spread about it (through comments such as “the movie is dark”). A happy ending also has an unintended (or may be in a calculative fashion, intended) effect of glossing over the faults of the movie (presents the Dark Knight Rises as evidence)

While indie movies have the (relative) freedom with respect to their endings, movies backed by the big studios (& thereby big budgets) have a lot more at stake & hence there would be considerable opposition towards ending a movie in a non-conventional fashion. Given these constraints, directors do end up coming up with ways of endings that deliver the so-called happy ending while remaining true to their overall message. Nolan does that in The Dark Knight. We all like the fact that Batman has defeated the Joker & saved Gordon and his family from Two-Face – a happy ending, sort of. However, what is hidden under the happy ending is the true ending. The Batman takes the fall for murders. The Joker is the ultimate winner. As Harvey says ‘You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain”. (What made it even more depressing at that point was Nolan stating that he did not think he would come back for another Batman movie)

& then there are some movies that end up on a happy note seemingly but on repeated viewings, lend itself to a different kind of interpretation, one that is completely at odds with the initial ending. Minority Report & Total Recall (The Colin Farrell starrer) are movies that fall into this category.

Minority Report has this seemingly happy ending. John Anderton is rescued from the halo-ed state he is placed in during his capture by his ex-wife & post escape, he ensures that he exposes the bad guy & clears his own name from the murder charges & the movie ends with him being reunited with his wife even as she is expecting their 2nd baby. That’s exactly what Spielberg (director of the movie) wants you to think. But there is this cutaway scene very early in the movie when a captor describes what a halo-ed person feels. They are incapacitated & as the captor says “All your dreams come true”. Which drives the question, what if the ending we saw was entirely John’s dreams or vision? Which pretty much means Anderton is still captive & technically, there is no happy ending

Total Recall has a nice happy ending. Colin Farrell having his memories supposedly unlocked after a visit to Rekall, a company that implants artificial memories, discovers himself to be a spy & brings down the evil guys. Just as the movie is ending, the sun comes out & an advertising board that displays Rekall is shown prominently for a few seconds & then Farrell hugs her heroine & basks in the sunlight. But what if all of this was really happening in Rekall. What if his fascination to be a spy is what is being played out in Rekall & he thinks that is the real life. It is an interesting thought & again adds up to an unconventional ending.

It is quite possible that the directors in both these movies had not really thought of it or meant it the way I have interpreted it but in this day & age of no wasted shot & exact editing, it does not seem too far-fetched a scenario.

Here’s hoping for more such movies J

Title Source: Avril Lavigne’s “My Happy Ending”

PS: May be it’s a Philip K Dick thing. Both Minority Report & Total Recall were based on PKD’s short stories. While I confess to have not read his books (I don’t read much sci-fi), I would like to think may be that’s how PKD wrote it in his books

PPS: I don’t remember much of the 1st Total Recall movie starring Arnie apart from the fact that it was kind of fun & involved travel to Mars & had a very hot (at that time)Sharon Stone

Actors are at times defined by the relationships that they portray on screen. It sometimes does not matter who the other person in the relationship is, all that matters is the relationship itself & the actor portraying that relationship. That relationship tends to define the actor & bring about the best in him/her. One of the best examples of the above happens to be John Noble.

John Noble in Lord of the Rings: Return of the King as Denethor, Steward of Gondor was my first introduction to him & he was everything that one expected out of Denethor. Haughty, proud, stern (or to borrow liberally from GRRM, Unbent, Unbowed & Unbroken).  John Noble’s weathered beaten craggy face conveys emotion perfectly. He plays a man grieving the loss of his first born, his heir & contemptuous of his second born for not measuring up to the standards expected of a heir, while at the same time, he absolutely resents the presence of Gandalf meddling in what he sees is Gondor’s concern. Denethor’s feelings for Faramir (his second born) comes pouring out when Faramir lies close to death. That is when Denethor gives up, starts acting irrationally & goes as far as to consign both himself & Faramir to flames.

Denethor, Steward of Gondor

Acting irrationally for his son is the theme that continues in John Noble’s roles & this was further reflected in Fringe, a science fiction tv series, where John Noble plays the proverbial mad scientist helping the FBI solve unexplained ala X-Files level cases. John Noble as Walter Bishop plays a nuanced character that is in equal parts brilliant, mad, guilty, eccentric, tormented, driven, focused, haunted and afraid. In order to save his son, Walter Bishop crosses a line (literally & figuratively) & in the process, puts the world in peril. His countenance is of a man weighed down by the guilt of his not just his actions but also of the belief that if he would have to do it all over again, he would do it the same way. The resulting guilt drives him to seek refuge in drugs (LSD in particular) & ultimately, seeks refuge in temporary madness. One look at Walter Bishop & we realize, here is a character that has experienced loss, & suffers from extraordinary guilt. He craves forgiveness & is willing to do anything to redeem himself for crossing the line but also knows that he is probably beyond redemption. Regret is another aspect that drives Walter Bishop. Regret for activities committed in the past. Activities that included experiments (of all weird kinds) on children. He understands now the mistakes he had committed & the lives that he has affected (in some cases, ruined)

Walter Bishop

The later seasons of Fringe requires John Noble to play an entirely different character. A wronged, vengeful, ambitious, powerful man who would do anything to get back at those he believes, are his enemies. His acting chops are never as evident here as we try to banish the character we had seen before & try to accept this new persona. Everything is perfect. If the previously weathered lined face represented a beaten man, the new weathered lines of his face represent a toughened man. The voice is deeper, the slouch, the hesitancy & the diffidence are gone & we have a tough sounding leader in place now. Again, this iteration of John Noble is again driven by the love for his son. It’s nothing short of a powerhouse performance from John Noble.

Walternate

It is a norm that actors often get typecast. But based on his performances in LOTR & Fringe, it probably is not a bad thing for John Noble to be typecast again as a dad who would perform the most desperate of acts for his son (Not a bad idea to have John Noble do a movie like Taken. I said it first here. Patented & Copyrighted)

PS: Given his performance in Fringe, it is indeed criminal that John Noble does not have even an Emmy nomination for Best Supporting Actor, let alone winning it. It kinds of ties into my theory that Academy awards judges & Prime time Emmy judges are snobs & cannot acknowledge science fiction, fantasy & super heroes as mainstream (Though it was indeed a relief that Peter Dinklage broke through last year)

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?

 

“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