Bahubali – The Beginning – Epic, Grand, Mesmerizing, FTW

He who wields the megaphone rules the world!! He showed us glimpses of it in Magadheera. He showed us his visionary storytelling in Eega. He showed us how to make a commercial entertainer without A-list actors in Maryada Ramana. Now, he has come to usher in the new age of Indian Cinema. With Bahubali, S.S. Rajamouli has crafted what could arguably be the best fantasy/action film, India has ever produced with such finesse, he could easily be roped in to direct any Peter Jackson film. When we heard that the budget for this film was close to Rs. 250Cr, you can actually see where every rupee of that went. Every frame is a testament to this labor of love from Rajamouli and team.

baahubali-the-beginning

First things first, comparisons with Lord of the Rings, Exodus, Hobbit, 300, Troy are all unavoidable due to the nature of the story and the level and style of CGI used in this film. Even though the film employs modern special effects, the story and 05bahubalipresentation is so much dipped in Indian sensitivity, specifically Telugu audience sensitivity and the sequences which seem like straight out of a Hollywood film are actually a testament to the ability of the film to convincingly translate the Western film angle to Indian mindset with such ease and flawlessness. This is an Indian film… through and through. That itself is half the battle won.

Coming to the story itself, it has a lot of influence from Indian and Western mythology. One could call it a weird mixture of Mahabharata and The Old bahubali_640x480_71432292760Testament. I am not going to spoil anything by revealing the story here, but it is at its core a revenge saga spanning 2 generations with a lot of palace level politics and betrayal thrown in for good measure. This is old school mythological drama set up on an epic scale.

There are a few signature styles of Rajamouli that are instantly recognizable. For instance, all his films have a slowly building up 1st half that sets up the mood and the characters and establishes the story in a straight forward manner. Then comes Baahubali-Official-First-Look-Posters-3-648x350the turning point and you know the 2nd half is going to be a wild ride with everything including the kitchen sink thrown at you and it is here where the bang for the buck lies. Same is the case with Bahubali. This is what we all go to the movies for. As George Milies once said, Movies have the ability to transport the viewer to a different world and leave them mesmerized. Movies have the power to capture dreams. That is exactly what Bahubali achieves. If it is too good to be true, it probably is.

Now coming to the flaws. Yes, there are a few of those. The romanticcfsbfhxugaehsjl-1 angle falls flat on its face and feels forced, as is the case with the item number which acts as a major speed breaker in an otherwise taut screenplay. These scenes are expertly executed, no doubt, but they feel out of place with the rest of the film.
But I guess given the budget of the film, the only way to recover that cost was to cater to the mass audience too. Something which still Rajamouli has yet to overcome.

The performances are all top notch. Prabhas exudes confidence and power through just his body language, as does Rana Dagubatti who looks menacing. Can’t believe he is the Bahubali-4th-Day-Collectionsame guy from leader. Sathyaraj as Kattappa (read: Bhishma Pitamah) leaves a lasting impression. Tamannah is the only weak link of the cast. She is clearly uncomfortable in action scenes. Anushka Shetty is tremendous. She will be a major asset in the 2nd part due for release in 2016. So is the case with Ramya Krishnan. Superb!

The CGI is very convincing and could be called the best Indian CGI ever, hands down and I can say confidently that after the Lord of the Rings rana-bahubali-movie-poster1movies, this was the first film which managed to transport me into its world for 2 hr 40 min and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. A special mention for the BGM by M.M. Keeravani which compliments the visuals by Senthil Kumar to the tee. This is a must watch for any Indian movie lover. It will go down in the annals of history as the game changer, the one that started it all, The Beginning. It’s one small step for Rajamouli, one giant leap for Indian Cinema. The benchmark has been set. Bring on The Conclusion!

Advertisements

Whiplash – Intense, Gripping & uncomfortable Thriller

Whiplash is arguably the best film of 2014 for me (narrowly beating Interstellar and Nightcrawler). It is a simple story about the relationship that develops (does not) between a student and his teacher, yet it has all the elements of a compelling thriller.

159419008_6f1764

The film is littered with uncomfortable moments which we wish we never have to face personally nor watch anyone being subjected to, yet we are intrigued when it happens. It’s similar to the reason why people love watching a public display of violence rather than one of friendship and it is this basic human emotion that the film feeds on. The underlying tension is palpable in every frame our two leads share together and the power struggle that ensues is riveting.

Picture a music student who wants to be the best drummer ever and a teacher whose methods to motivate him is to de-Whiplash-5547.cr2motivate him so much that he brings out his best to prove the latter wrong out of anger or shame. This “end justifies the
means” approach adopted by Terrence Fletcher (JK Simmons) to bring the best out of new student, Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller) is what drives the narrative without ever getting too sentimental. As a matter of fact, sentiment is the last thing you’ll find in this film. Fletcher throws everything at Neyman, verbally as well as the kitchen sink, only to have the kid bounce back spectacularly to no applause or praise in return.

It is a monumental feat achieved by director, Damien Chazelle. He has succeeded in crafting a nail biting thriller out of a film based on music in the manner of a sports film. Not a single moment during the film’s 100 minute runtime, did I get a chance to ponder on what I had just witnessed. The pace is brisk and the WHIPLASHmusic is jazz, what more could one ask for? There are twists and turns in the climax too and is so unexpectedly unorthodox, that I feel the director’s approach to the story was “I don’t care whether they like it or not, but that’s what happened”, which is aces in my book. Usually movies like this end with all the positive vibes with sugar on top. Whiplash is anything but that. The last 10 minutes of the film is possibly the best climax for a film I‘ve seen all year long. It is the opposite of the last 10 minutes of Interstellar.

Now, there is no need for me to say this, but JK Simmons is getting an Oscar for his performance here, no doubt about it. His portrayal of Fletcher brings to mind, the drill sergeant portrayed by R. Lee Ermy in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket. Unsettling, whiplash-679x350verbally abusive and scary, a taskmaster, every student’s nightmare teacher, yes, that about sums up Fletcher’s charactcer. Miles Teller is seriously talented. He manages to hold his own against the towering performance of Simmons and probably deserved an Oscar nomination at least (didn’t happen). He displays the vulnerability of a young boy who wants to be great and not get discouraged by the sadistic teacher, superbly. Plus, Teller is really a trained drummer which only adds to the charm of the film and makes us buy into his motivation. Without this aspect, the entire film would  have fallen flat.

Whiplash-bloody-drumsticksIf you are a fan of well written drama, watch Whiplash. If you are a fan of intense sequences, watch Whiplash. If you are a fan of amazing performances, watch Whiplash. If you are a fan of Jazz music or sports films, watch Whiplash. A MUST WATCH. Even after the film has ended, we are never convinced that Fletcher’s methods work. Neyman is as much at fault in this relationship too since he never lets go of his ego. Whiplash indeed!!

Amadeus – Music of the Gods

3RpcPYW5fkWJmwrng2RpuSfKCv2

It so rarely happens that I watch a film and within the first 5 minutes, it captures my imagination and never lets go for the next 3 hours straight. Amadeus did just that and instantly catapulted to my personal all time top 5 movies list. This is a film with so much heart and soul, you can practically feel it in every frame and every note. For the uninformed, this is a dark film with an in depth character 011-amadeus-theredliststudy of the music prodigy, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart through the eyes of rival composer, Antonio Salieri. This is one of the bravest and riskiest films ever to be committed to celluloid, not just because making a biopic of a famous artist usually ends up being too boring, but also due to the fact that the subject matter being music, there is a chance of the film just using the famous tunes as filler rather than an integral part of the movie.

However director Molis Forman and screenwriter Peter Shaffer are more than up to the job and have developed a screenplay that uses the music not as a backdrop, but as a character. Yes, the musical masterpieces of Mozart are used to portray the mood and convey so20140613_seoulbeats_amadeus much emotion that it sometimes becomes too overwhelming. The viewer gets the feeling of eavesdropping on a very intimate moment in someone else’s memory. This is the music composed by Gods for the Gods. Are all men equal in the eyes of God? If so, why are certain people born with special talents and the rest are just mediocre. The film throws light on how mediocrity confronts superiority and how superiority doesn’t guarantee success in the traditional sense. This approach of the film is the masterstroke to make it the best biopic of all time.

The film begins with Antonio Salieri(F. Murray Abraham), sometime in the 1820’s confined to an insane asylum narrating the story of the last 10 years of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart(Tom Hulce)  from 1781 to 1791 when he was in Vienna and the intimate sense of hatred he amadeus_002felt towards the genius, but at the same time being thoroughly awe inspired  by the same genius’ music. Salieri was a mediocre composer and he knew it. But he also knew good music when he hears it and senses the same with Mozart’s tunes. He dreams of meeting the prodigy in person but is soon dejected after meeting the man and realizing that the Mozart is kind of a brat, chasing girls and giggling like a child unnecessarily. His dreams are shattered, not because Mozart is a genius, but because he feels God has cheated him by choosing the immature Amadeus Mozart as his instrument and not him. Mozart on the other hand is like a child trapped in an adult body but whose music oozes with the sense of the Divine.

The film has 3 central characters – Mozart, Salieri and the music. The lengths to which Salieri goes to destroy Mozart’s career have a Shakespearean quality and tragedy looms ever so close in every Escena de Amadeus 1984scene. Very rarely does a film focus on the process of creation of famous pieces of art. But here however that process is the core focus. What goes through the mind of a genius composer like Mozart as he writes those tunes? Clearly music is the language of the Gods. Every musical note has an emotion that it’s trying to convey. On the other hand, when mediocrity meets true genius, what is the more mature thing to do? Get inspired and improve one’s own quality of work? Or resort to jealousy and blame a higher power for one’s shortcomings? No other film has explored this fundamental aspect of human behavior with so much depth and sensitivity.

Amadeus deserves each of the 8 Oscars it received and the film stands the test of time. A 1984 film about a genius musician of the 18th century is still relevant in the 21st century. A lot of that credit should go to the 2 main leads especially Abraham who plays Selieri with so many little nuances that we empathize with him although he is a character who is despicable and cowardly. Thoroughly deserves amadeus-1984-21-gthe Oscar for Best actor over Tom Hulce. Although Hulce’s portrayal of Mozart is also spot-on, it lacks the little things that Abraham brought to the role of Selieri. But that was by design, as Mozart was more straightforward in his approach to almost everything. Mozart’s relationship with his father, his wife and Selieri are the main focus of this character and director, Forman has made a masterpiece around all these convoluted opera themed sequences with the music and acting shining like a bright star in this dark tale of a tragic genius. This is a film everyone should watch at least once in their life on Earth.

Interstellar – Bend space and time in order to bend your mind!

interstellar-poster-690x1024

Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar is a masterpiece. PERIOD. Nerds everywhere who revel in theories of the cosmos have their wet dreams come true. Nolan takes us on a journey that is pure Science Fiction based on Murphy’s Law – “Anything that can happen, will happen”. At the outset, I would recommend that the viewer brush up on a few key physics concepts like the Theory of Relativity, Theory of the Multiverse, Space-Time continuum, Worm Holes and Black Holes. The film is engrossing and enjoyable even if you don’t know these concepts, but the added background knowledge would make you appreciate it on another level. This is no Space Opera.

At its core, Interstellar is a story revolving around that prime instinct of being human – The will to survive. The film raises several questions like – Is ours the only universe? What would happen if we had access to higher dimensions and not limited to just 3? Where does the line lie between science and spirituality? How far can one travel within the realms of aweewe-820x420physics? Could there be planets similar to earth that could sustain lives?  What happens when one enters a black hole or a worm hole? This and several more deep possibilities are explored and portrayed beautifully on screen in what according to me is the best film of the decade so far. It is very clear that Nolan has researched the shit out of this subject matter. He has managed to provide visuals to famous theories that we have heard of but never seen.

Its almost impossible to give the story without spoilers. Just a gist then. Earth is at its last phase before it enters the Wall-E phase! Dust everywhere, food scarce and no hope in sight. As a last Interstellar24ditch effort, humans send a crew to explore planets of other galaxies in search of habitable conditions. The crew consists of Cooper(Matthew McConaughey), Amelia(Anne Hathaway) among others. Cooper shares a special bond with his daughter Murf(Jessica Chastain) whom he has to leave back on Earth! The rest of the story is a space advanture with various scenarios thrown at the crew that they have to overcome. Simultaneously, the effect on Murf on Earth and Cooper’s son, Tom(Casey Affleck) as they fight to survive in uninhabitable conditions. This emotional bond that the father and daughter share forms the crux of the film around which the entire epic saga unfolds.

Nolan clearly is the winner here. An Oscar is mandatory. He never loses sight of the characters in this ambitious project that so easily could have been a sloppy mess. How many times have we gone for a movie because the trailer was promising, but that was it. Here, however, the film far surpasses the teaser and emerges as a deep, thought provoking images
piece of sci-fi. When handling a big budget project like Interstellar, it is very easy to get carried away with special effects and over the top indulgences. Fortunately, Interstellar manages to keep its head on its shoulder and satisfy viewers abundantly. Trust me when I say the film has all the ingredients to be a talking point in all Science classes in school.

The acting, usually in a sci-fi film takes a backseat as directors prefer to let the effects take center stage. Here however, Matthew McConaughey absolutely nails it as the mission man father interstellar_alonging for his kids. His facial expressions and dialogue delivery hit all the right notes. The rest of the cast all support ably. A special mention to the background score by Hans Zimmer. All these aspects combined with the sure hand of Christopher Nolan and the backing by the Scientific community, it is absolute symphony on celluloid best enjoyed on the biggest of screens. This was meant as an immersive experience and Nolan delivers and how! So put on your thinking caps and don’t miss Interstellar – this generation’s 2001 A Space Odyssey.

Fury – Ideals are peaceful, History is violent!

War Movies are rare, good war movies are much more so. Fortunately ‘Fury’ falls in the latter. Now here’s a movie that is intense, gripping and apart from minor pacing issues, manages to hold the viewer’s nails dug in the arm cushion for the most part of its 137 minutes run time.

fury_ver2_xlg

When we talk war films, the most common imagery one visualizes are scenes from Saving Private Ryan, Full Metal Jacket, Apocalypse Now, Patton, Platoon, Inglorious Basterds or War Horse. Now add Fury to that list. Each of the classic films mentioned here have a signature style of their own. Fury’s signature style is mud, dirt and corpse. Granted, this may be the most visceral depiction of war in all its ugliness and cruelty.

What sets this film apart is the approach that it takes in telling a story about the bonds formed between soldiers of war, the Brad-Pitt-Michael-Pena-and-Shia-LaBeouf-in-Fury-Movit.net_way they view the job that they have been forced to do. It’s not all noble and heroic as is how Hollywood usually projects wars on celluloid. War is a dirty business. No one wants to be there, but it is unavoidable. Soldiers fight the war bravely, but with a grudge for the task at hand. It is unpleasant and immoral, but can’t be avoided. This aspect is superbly depicted on screen aided by amazing performances, particularly by Brad Pitt, Logan Lerman and Shia LaBeouf.

Like Patton, Fury is a movie that deals with Battle Tank warfare. In Patton, the approach was that of an aerial view of the battle that lets us see the strategy that is employed in battle. In Fury, on the other hand, the perspective is from inside the Battle Tank christened ‘Fury’ and the emotions that the 5 soldiers confined in this killing machine undergo. Fury’ commander in charge fury-interstellar-fury-foxcatcher-and-2014-s-other-most-anticipated-moviesis Don ‘WarDaddy’ Collier (Brad Pitt in a role that is similar to the one he portrayed in Inglorious Basterds). The supporting players are Boyd ‘Bible’ Swan (Shia Labeouf in a Godfearing mellow role), Trini ‘Gordo’ Garcia (Michael Pena as the comic relief illegal immigrant from Mexico), Grady ‘Coon-Ass’ Travis (Jon Bernthal in the role of a Douchebag, DeNiro looking, profanity spewing bully) and Norman ‘Machine’ Ellison (Logan Lerman as the only one with a pure heart and a sense of morality). This rag-tad band of miscreants are plunged into World War II Germany in the race to Berlin in the Battle Tank ‘Fury’.

The film has, as expected expertly executes the battle sequences with the climax one lasting for almost 20 minutes ending in an adrenaline pumping finale. But what gives the film more depth and manages to raise it above the generic war/action genre is the character interaction and the reality of the situation. For instance, in a scene, early in the film, Brad Pitt’s Brad-Pitt-and-Logan-Lerman-in-Fury-2014character forces Typewriting-specialist-turned-Reluctant-Soldier, Norman Ellison to do something that is not only immoral but downright cruel. As a matter of fact every soldier in the film behaves like evil scumbags reveling in killing and torturing. One might even say, I didn’t like the main characters in the film. But that’s the point the film is trying to make. Everyone’s action is predicated by one emotion alone – Fury. In a state of anger, human behaviour can change in the matter of seconds. Kill or get killed is the underlining truth of war.

Brad Pitt is solid as ever and sinks his teeth into the role of the profanity spewing WarDaddy role with relish. The only other character with a meaty role is Norman Ellison, the only one who has no business being inside Fury and the only one who isDinner-Table-scene-in-Fury-2014 the voice of reason. His is the only character that we are meant to relate to and he does a fantastic job portraying it. The others fill in their respective shoes capably and together raise the level of the film to new heights. The Director, David Ayer, deserves brownie points for accurate portrayal of the realities of war and not over dramatizing the sequences of action or the interludes.

As Brad Pitt says in the film “Ideals are peaceful, History is violent”.

Hugo – Scorsese’s emotional tribute to the origin of cinema

When one hears of the name Martin Scorsese, one’s mind immediately goes to gangster films with a lot of profanity, violence and frivolity. Another image that comes to mind is either Robert DeNiro or Leonardo Dicaprio as the lead man. Scorsese is arguably the greatest director alive today (even Steven Spielberg says so and I concur). Anyone with a filmography containing gems like Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, Raging Bull, Casino, The Departed, The Aviator, Gangs of New York, Shutter Island and The Wolf of Wall Street is a Godsend for humanity! These are some of his films which most would recommend in a heartbeat. But there are other films too which the great director has in his resume that would put the likes of Spielberg, Tarantino, Nolan, Zemeckis and James Cameron to eat their words. Films like Kundun, The King of Comedy, New York New York and more recently, the masterpiece – HUGO!

“If you’ve ever wondered where your dreams come from… you look around… This is where they’re made!”

Hugo-the-key

With Hugo, Martin Scorsese has achieved what very few directors have managed – Make a fairy tale that appeals to adults with its immense emotional depth and maturity that would leave you hugospellbound at the brilliance of the visual medium. To add icing to the cake, the film is presented in magnificent native 3-D. The 3-D experience rivals those of Avatar and that’s saying a lot. The almost Dickensian approach to the story with vibes of Wizard of Oz make this the most unusually different film (Scorsese or otherwise) since Spielberg’s A.I. Never has a film so technically advanced tackled a plot with such depth and maturity. Kudos!

Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) is an orphan who lives in the Paris train station in the 1930’s. His job is to take care of the station clocks, a job that actually belongs to his drunk uncle who is never around. The station inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen) is a man obsessed with hugo-movie03catching orphans and shipping them off to the orphanage. Hugo’s father (Jude Law) was a clockmaker who taught Hugo everything he knows, but died shortly after starting a project of repairing an Automaton, a mechanical man he found discarded in the museum where he used to work. Hugo, continues trying to get the machine to work by stealing parts from the shopkeeper in the station, George Milies (Ben Kingsley). When the shopkeeper catches him, he is deeply disturbed and confiscates Hugo’s father’s precious notebook. Hugo finds an ally in the shopkeeper’s goddaughter, Isabelle (Chloe Moretz). This adventure which starts off as a regular “reclaim what is rightfully yours” theme soon turns into a revealing story that would explain the magic of movies and the secret of the shopkeeper.

The film is not fast paced, mind. It takes its own sweet time to reveal its cards and that only adds to the charm. The look and feel of the film makes it seem like a piece of art in its purest form. Indeed every frame hugo4is captivating. The audience is educated in the evolution of films right from late 1800’s to early 1900’s. Scorsese uses the opportunity to pay homage to several of the earliest films like Lumiere Brother’s “Arrival of a Train at the Station” and 1902’s “A Trip to the Moon” among many others. There is so much more to the plot which if revealed would be considered major spoilers(Although I might have toed the line a fair few times already).

Asa Butterfield, Chloe Moretz and Ben Kingsley get the most screen time and boy, do they make the most of it. Not that the other hugo-460x307performances were not great. I mean, come on, it’s a Scorsese film. Everyone needs to be at their best, even Sacha Baron Cohen who tries desperately to avoid bringing his Borat personality into this film’s universe. Howard Shore’s music deserves special mention along with cinematography by Robert Richardson. I feel Scorsese deserved an Oscar for direction more for this film than The Departed. Anyway who cares. As a character in the film says, “Come, Dream with me”, I say, “Come, Dream with Scorsese”.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Caesar is Badass!

It’s been a while since my last update on my blog. Owe that to the start of my new job. I thought it needed my undivided attention. Now I realize, how could I have even thought my job was deserving of more attention than my passion for movies. Much like Caesar trusts humans, I trust movies.

Dawn-of-the-Planet-of-the-Apes1

In an awesome summer filled with gems like Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Amazing  Spiderman 2, Godzilla, X-Men: Days of Future Past, How to Train your Dragon 2 and many more, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes stands tallest. It is the perfect film and possibly the best this year so far. The film is dark and soaked in doom. You’d be hard pressed to find more than 3-4 cheerful moments. If you thought the Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a fresh take on the popular and mistreated (by Tim Burton) franchise, Dawn takes it a step further in a completely new direction that has a very ominous feel for the characters ringing in the air. The tension is palpable.

If there was one complain from the first movie, it was that the human characters were not well developed for us to care. We cared only about Caesar. That hasn’t been rectified in this installment too. But one can forgive that misstep considering the final payoff is worth it. One should have watched the first film to appreciate this one on a whole other Dawn-Of-The-Planet-Of-The-Apes3-e1396236946120level, but its not mandatory. The film takes it slow with the first 15 minutes establishing the colony of the apes and their society norms. This is effective as once we are familiar with the kingdom Caesar has built for the apes in the jungle, the scene shifts to the humans and their state of affairs which could not be more opposite. There is an underlying Shakespearean theme to the proceeding (Hardly surprising, considering the lead character is named Caesar). This is arguably the best Planet of the Apes movie. The film is aimed at adults.

The Apes have been living happily for about 10 years in the jungle, hunting elks and breeding, under the leadership of Caesar (Andy Serkis) with no humans being sighted for the last 2 years. The virus that caused the apes’ outbreak has led to the near extinction of the human race. Only a few thousands remain alive in the nearest city of San Francisco that looks like a war-torn
dawn-of-the-planet-of-the-apes-trailer-00demolished ruin straight out of ‘I am Legend’ or ’28 Days Later’. The humans need power to get civilization back on track that can only be done by fixing the dam that is in the jungle filled with apes. Caesar trusts the humans and allows Malcolm(Jason Clarke) and his team to use the ape’s territory to repair the dam, but on the condition of prevailing peace. Not all the apes are on board for this, especially Koba, a trigger happy ape, the second ape in command who distrusts humans due to some past cruel experiences with them. War is inevitable, though who is at fault is debatable as is the case in real wars too.

The film has a deep underlying message of how weak technology has made humans which is dawn-of-the-planet-of-the-apes-5thrown into sharp relief when we see the chaos the humans live in at the lack of it and the civilized lives of the apes without technology. Another point that the film tries to make is how important leadership is at times of crisis. Whenever Caesar is present among the apes, there is sense of control. When he isn’t, the ominous feel returns. Similarly the leader of the humans, Dreyfus (Gary Oldman), can’t get his people to even listen to him while he talks. The term “Live and let live” is only a myth.

 There is an interesting and touching sub plot of Caesar’s difficulty bonding with his elder son, Blue Eyes. This track reminds one of The Lion King. There is plenty of action for those who don’tdawn-planet-apes care for mundane things like plot or screenplay, but that is something that is part of a larger picture. The 2nd half has a good 45 minutes war sequence filled with adrenaline pumping ape on human, human on ape, ape on ape and human on human fights. We’re all animals in the end after all. The way the apes communicate with each other is also well established.

Now let’s come straight to the point. It’s been said before by many and I’ll say it again, Andy Serkis deserves some kind of Oscar. The man who gave us memorable characters like Gollum Dawn-of-the-Planet-of-the-Apes-Caesar-eyesand King Kong is on top of his game with his portrayal of Caesar. The ape looks so real even in the very close up shots. The expressions, mannerisms and aura cast by Caesar are overwhelming to say the least. Andy is clearly the most important component of the modern cinema technique, the motion capture technology. Part of the credit needs to be given to the CGI effects team and director, Matt Reeves (Cloverfield). The special effects are top notch and never do we feel that the apes are computer generated. Matt Reeves’s style of direction reminds one of the style mastered by zombie-movie-maker, George A. Romero and director, Neil Marshall (Doomsday). Needless to say, the 3D isn’t good especially since most of the scenes take place in the dark.

The human actors also perform well enough, though they are overshadowed by the apes. People going to this film hoping to laugh and have fun munching on popcorn, will be surprised by the seriousness of the film. For example, I expected some people in the theater to laugh out loud or make stupid ape sounds at several points in the film when all we hear for several minutes are apes making monkey sounds communicating with each other. But I was pleasantly surprised that no one did. The film forces even the most detached viewer to respect the proceedings on screen. That there is definite proof that we have a masterpiece on our hands. Bow down to Caesar and don’t miss the best of 2014 so far on the big screen.

X-Men: Days of Future Past – Bryan Singer’s Back with a Bang

x_men_days_of_future_past_banner-wide

The X-Men franchise has always been a money spinner for Marvel and 20th Century Fox. But to be honest, the films that have come out of this franchise have always had the “Could have been made better” tag attached to it barring to some extent the reboot X-Men: First Class. X-Men: Days of Future Past is the 7th film from this franchise. Bryan Singer directed the most popular first X-Men and X2. He left the franchise there and moved on to direct Superman Returns, Valkyrie and Jack the Giant Slayer. Now, he has come back to revive the franchise which saw a sort of redemption for itself with First Class. The manner in which Bryan Singer has made this film, it’s almost like he has stamped his authority all over this franchise saying that it is his and no one else’s.

This is the true revival of X-Men. The film almost feels like a tribute to all the good things the X-Men films represent. Also it is worth noting that, apart from the characters being similar to previous installments, there is a definite sense that we have to forget the X-Men films that o-X-MEN-DAYS-OF-FUTURE-PAST-TRAILER-facebookreleased before X-Men: First Class for this film to work. The story feels more like Science Fiction involving people with superpowers. The moment time travel becomes a plot element, the stakes are raised with “What is happening where?” and “What would happen if that happened now?” type scenarios cropping up time and again. Also it eventually leads to plot holes that are filled only if one accepts the governing principles of time travel the film sketches out. So let’s just agree to agree with the film’s version of time travel.

In apocalyptic 2023, the Sentinels, which are robot like creatures with special powers created by Boliver Trask (Peter Dinklage) to detect and annihilate mutants are on the verge of wiping out all the X-Men. x-men-days-of-future-past-sentinel-x-men-36852603-750-463As a last ditch effort, the X-Men send back Wolverine/Logan (Hugh Jackman) to 1973 to stop the event that led to the creation of the Sentinels: Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) assassinating Trask. But the more challenging job for Wolverine is to get a reluctant young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and young pessimistic Magneto (Michael Fassbender) to work together to save the future.

As far as the plot goes, it sounds simple enough, but the icing lies in the characters. This is as much a character oriented film as it is a hugh-jackman-stars-in-final-trailer-for-x-men-days-of-future-past-watch-now-161013-a-1397628564superhero movie. We have considerable scenes showing a young drug addict? Charles Xavier,  a morally conflicted Mystique, a determined cold-blooded Magneto and of course Wolverine who for the first time is out of his comfort zone as here he has to take up the role of mentor which is usually reserved for Xavier. There are plenty of action sequences including the show stopper scene involving the lighting fast QuickSilver (Wish I had seen more of him). We also get our fair share of the older versions of Charles Xavier(Patrick Stewart) and Magneto(Ian McKellan) along with Storm(Halle Berry) and other X-Men favorites.

Another interesting plot element used is the “past meets future” cultural clash. Of the cast, everyone appears to be in top form except Peter Dinklage who feels out of place (or maybe I can’t see him x-men-days-of-future-past-DF-25809_rgb-1024x684outside Westeros). In order to enjoy this rebooted franchise, its best to accept it the way we accept J.J. Abram’s Star Trek reboot. One issue needs to be addressed though: it feels like the movie is trying too hard to please viewers by cramming in as much nostalgia, action and character moments in its 140 minutes running time as possible resulting in it feeling too clever for a summer blockbuster film. It feels almost like it is aspiring to reach the levels reached by The Dark Knight Rises or Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I found that the best way to enjoy this film is to not think about any of the previous X-Men movies while watching it. Enjoy it for what it is. A passionate comeback for X-Men through the eyes of Bryan Singer who first bought these characters to life on celluloid.

Kochadaiyaan: A Magnum Opus in the true sense

M_Id_378477_rajinikanth-kochadaiyaan

Watching Kochadaiyaan or for that matter any Rajnikant film is an event in itself. Thalaiva has already been immortalized in various avatars, now it’s time for the Motion Capture Thalaiva! So let’s come straight to the facts. The motion capture technique used is the reason most people would want to watch this film. Those who expect similar results to when the technology was used by James Cameron for Avatar would be disappointed. To be fair, the style and epic nature of the production and Rajnikant more than make up for this.

When James Cameron made Avatar, he actually spent more than 10 years perfecting the technology. Similar is the case with Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tin-Tin. Another director, Robert Zemeckis is also known to be a thespian in this technology, in fact he was involved with making movies like Polar Express, Beowulf and A Christmas Carol using this technology during its various evolutionary stages. Kochadaiyaan’s CGI feels more like the motion capture used in Polar Express than A Christmas Carol. The details are missing. All the characters look like dolls that have come to life. The body movements and expressions are not precise like you’d find in bigKochadaiyaan-teasers-new-achievement budget Hollywood films. But there you have it, it’s the budget that makes this film feel like it belongs in 2004, not 2014. It’s like watching dolls of all the actual actors sounding like themselves, but acting like Katrina Kaif. The eyes are what make everything seem unnatural. They are lifeless and hence you never really connect with most of the characters.

I say most, because, let’s face it, Rajnikant can just get you hooked with his dialogue delivery alone. People who watch the Tamil version are likely to enjoy this film more than those who go for the Telugu or kochadaiyaan-music-review-movie-stills_01Hindi version. The reason being the songs by A.R. Rahman are what drive the film throughout, apart from Rajni. If it weren’t for the bombastic soundtrack by the Maestro, this film would have fallen flat on its face, Thalaiva or no Thalaiva. Eight outstanding songs (in Tamil, mind you) that are choreographed well on screen make the film more enjoyable given its fairly traditional plotline.

The plot(as if a Rajni film needs one) narrates the story of rivalry between 2 kingdoms, Kottaipatinam ruled by Rishikodagan(Nasser) and Kalingpuri ruled by Raja Mahendra(Jackie Shroff).
Rana(Rajnikant), son of Legendary warrior, Kochadiyaan(Rajnikant) is the trusted Army Chief of Kottaipatinam. He is in love with
kochadaiiyaan-full-songs-jukebox-movie-stills_01Rishikodigan’s daughter, Vadhana(Deepika Padukone). His histrionics in battle make him a favorite of the people in the city which irks the king. Is Rana the traditional good guy who battles for his king no matter what? Whose side is he on? What happened to his father? All these questions are answered in the film although a little haphazardly.

I have to give props to debut director, Soundarya Rajnikant Ashwin. It’s a commendable effort. The ending credits show a montage of behind the scenes footage that show how the film was made, is proof enough as to how much hard work has gone into this entire production. We all have wondered if Indian epics like Mahabharat and Ramayana can also be made on the scale of Lord of the Rings. rajinik-bigKochadaiyaan is the first step towards that dream. It’s wonderful to see traditional Indian dance sequences on an epic scale in a Motion Capture environment. A Rajni film has to have good dialogues, a couple of twists and turns with the hero coming on top from a horrible situation, some insane action sequences, some amazing songs and all the style associated with Thalaiva. They are all in abundance to be found here with many sequences that look good.

In the end it is fair to say that this is a Rajni film through and through with Rahman making his presence felt as well. Die hard fans will enjoy it no matter what (which is enough for the film to be termed a blockbuster), but others also have a lot to enjoy about this film if only they can forgive its out-dated motion capture 3D computer animation. Indian filmmakers should invest more time and effort and money on improving and perfecting this technology which would lead to many amazing films, I am sure.

Oculus – Mind-f**k

Yes, Along with reviewing classics that I enjoyed, I am going to review new films too as I watch them(if they are worth reviewing)

oculus-movie

Go in with low expectations and come out with something far more rewarding, if only we could approach everything in life with this mindset. Anyways, that’s exactly what happened to me when I actually wanted to watch Godzilla, but ended up watching Oculus as it was the only film without the words “Sold Out” against it on a Sunday evening. And boy, am I glad I did. Although I do regret not catching this on a late night show. Now that would have made the ride back home exhilarating (read: scary) to say the least.

If anyone asks me my favorite genre of films, I would say “Horror”. The reaction almost every time I say this is a look of incredulity or exasperation. The fact of the matter is, I love to see how much I can take without getting spooked. Few films have managed to scare the living hell out of me. The Exorcist, The Descent, The Conjuring and Insidious being a few of them. Now Oculus can proudly stand alongside those classics. Although, truth be told, the boo moments, although there are a few, are not what this film is about. It is more of a psychological thriller than genuine horror. It follows the template that films like Shutter Island, Inception etc have utilized so effectively. We are never sure what is real and what is imaginary.

Okay, so there is this mirror which is supposedly a gateway into hell or evil or some shit(we are not given an explanation regarding this). It loves to play tricks on people who look at it or are near it and eventually it makes them do crazy evil things to others or to themselves. It’s been doing this for 400 years with its latest victim being the Oculus-Movie-Heroineparents of Kaylie Russell (Karen Gillan) and Tim (Brenton Thwaites). Twelve years later, Kaylie is still certain that the mirror is evil and intends to destroy it, but not before recording its supernatural power on camera with the help of Tim.

There are a few points about the film that I would like to highlight. First, the narrative is not at all straightforward. We are presented the -bc66494c92203109events that transpire in 2002 and 2014 that intersect with each other in a very creative manner. Most of the times the viewer is uncertain which timeline is on display. This only adds to the film’s allure. Secondly, the first half throws a different spin on the story, i.e Is the entire explanation Kaylie gives regarding the mirror’s intentions just an elaborate conspiracy theory that she has fragmented to justify her parent’s horrific fate? Tim provides good counter arguments to Kaylie’s claims. But the director, Mike Flanagan decides to abandon this approach in the second half and from there on the film provides a roller coaster ride of scares at break-neck pace.

Fear of the unknown is more effective than fear of something we know. This is very much in effect here and as is always the case, once we know what we are up against, the fear level drops. Still the film manages to surprise you for most of its runtime and that’s Oculus-Katee-Sackoffsaying something. If there is a flaw, it could be that the pre-climax sequence feels a little dragged. The background score is aptly haunting and the editing by Flanagan is the clear winner here. Watch it in a theater with good sound system and projection (a lot of the action takes place in dark settings). The film has its share of blood and gore (Not as bad as “Saw” though, more Conjuring type), but that is to be expected and the performances are all understated and effective and never hinder with the narrative. The film is never unintentionally funny and therein lies its strength in being an effective horror film.

PS: Don’t watch the trailer  😉