Monday, September 1, 2014

Review The Lunchbox aka Dabba (2013)

genre: drama, romance

The Lunchbox aka Dabba is an Indian movie and not your typical bollywood masala flick which is refreshing. What is even more wonderful about this one that it's a story about real people told in a real and sincere way. Most of what unfolds on screen is relatable and universal. The story is based on a lunch box delivery system of Mumbai where lunch boxes are collected from homes to be delivered to workplaces. It is said that it's most efficient as they rarely make mistakes. Which is quite extraordinary if you consider how many lunch boxes are being delivered and fetched. In this film a mistake is made though where a lunch box from Ila (Nimrat Kaur) gets delivered to Saajan Fernandes (Irrfan Khan) instead to her husband. When she finds out she starts writing to Saajan and he starts writing back. They connect and it is beautiful to see how that unfolds into something more. It starts out as a friendship that becomes more intimate where it is left upon the viewer to interpret of what this relationship is about. What I enjoyed immensely was that you see growth in the characters. Especially Saajan. The man seems like he has given up on almost everything. He is going through motions and does not really want to be among people that much. But because of the friendship with Ila he finds back his passion and slowly opens up again to her and the world. There is a hint of romance although I think this is more about connecting and a form of intimacy that friends can have without it being romantic and sexual. For me this was a beautiful tale without it ever getting over the top or dramatic. A must watch!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Review Maleficent (2014)

genre: fantasy

Maleficent shows real promise right from the start. It's sweet and endearing. That should have been a direct contrast to when Maleficent becomes the evil person we know from Sleeping Beauty (1959). However here is where the biggest problem of this film gets exposed. Angelina's version of Maleficent is not really evil. The Disney version was even more evil than Angelina. Here she is actually just justifiably angry and a good person through and through. And believe it or not that is exactly what has ruined the viewing experience for me. They changed the personality so much that you begin to wonder what the point is. Angelina Jolie can do evil and creepy very easily. So why did they make her out to be so nice. Sure she looks like she could bite your head of any minute but the most evil she does is put a spell on Aurora. Her further actions will contradict this spell so in the grand scheme of things it makes no sense. The real villain is King Stefan played by Sharlto Copley. It clearly shows that he is asked to hold back as we know he can do much better. Again this hurts the viewing experience. I understand that this version is aimed at children. Still it shows that the film makers don't really know what kids can handle. Actually they are insulting their intelligence. Just take a look at the Disney's Sleeping Beauty. Maleficent is evil personified in there. She is not someone to mess with it. Angelina Jolie's Maleficent is basically a pushover. Most of the action is cute and looks good but it could not hold my interest because it never really dazzles or surprises you. For me this was very disappointing. Not bad, but not one I can recommend.

Review The Expendables 3 (2014)

genre: action, adventure

With this third part The Expendables has become a franchise that every action aficionado has to check out if only because of the huge names involved that bring us old school action for the masses. The Expendables always has been about bringing old school action back and paying tribute to the early action heroes that back then made our day. This one is no different and adds Wesley Snipes, Mel Gibson and Antonio Banderas into the mix. While this part definitely is a little slower and less surprising it still packs a lot of punch. I mean the action sequences in the final part are among the best I have seen in a long time and makes you forgive for the uneven pacing previously. But best of all it helps us remind why actors like Wesley Snipes and Antonio Banderas were big when they ruled the cinema. Both bring a charisma to the screen that is magnetic. Antonio Banderas more so than Snipes. But I mean Antonio is charming as hell. Even if he would do mundane things it is hard to dislike the guy. I sincerely hope that this adventure will bring them back in the roles they excel in. One remark about the PG-13 rating. Does it hurt the overall enjoyment of this film as a standalone ? No, it does not. But compared to the previous parts it does considerably. In this case there is something to be said about not seeing the blood and gore that comes with the brutal action that is displayed. Somehow it feels cartoony. As Sylvester Stallone said himself the comedy was toned down a lot also. And those were exactly the elements that gave the Expendables movies their edge above current action films. Overall I enjoyed The Expendables 3 and I want them to continue this franchise as long as possible.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Review Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

 genre: action, adventure, comic book

Well, I'll be damned but this was actually a lot of fun. While Michael Bay wasn't in the director's seat this time his stamp all over it and that worked out nicely. It was not what I expected to be but the fact that it was not dreadful and very enjoyable I am not going to be super critical as I initially was. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for me is pure nostalgia as I grew up on watching them and I feared and dreaded that Michael Bay would make me hate those otherwise lovable turtles. Imagine my surprise that most of what we love about them stays intact. Which at the same time could be seen criticism since this latest adaptation doesn't do anything new with them. Another might be that the action is a little too similar to the Transformers franchise. Now I liked it for the most part, but would it have hurt to have the turtles fighting in their own unique style and actually fight like ninja's. It amazes me that the ninja part always gets overlooked so much. Here was a chance for Turtles to actually behave and act like real life Ninja's with all that mysticism and cool stuff that comes with it. And they neglected to make use of this. Another big flaw I do need to address is the under use of Shredder. Here you have an iconic villain and somehow he is less impressive as he should have been. However it did not stop me from being entertained. More surprised was I that Megan Fox as April was not annoying at all. All in all this version is pretty entertaining and in this day and age that is the least you could hope for.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Review Pain & Gain (2013)

genre: crime, comedy

A lot of people think Michael Bay is one of the worst directors in existence. And when it comes to the Transformers franchise I am inclined to think the same but then Bay does manage to surprise friend and foe with gems like The Rock and this one. Pain & Gain is truly a compelling and incredibly entertaining black comedy. It becomes even more impressive if you learn that this film is based on a true story. Now obviously Michael Bay has taken some freedom with it and details might have been changed. Still if you realize that most of the events have occurred for real in one form or another. You will get overtaken by this uncomfortable and eerie feeling. The stupidity of our main characters know no bounds and you will shake your head with disbelief in how they act and portray themselves. At first you will laugh at them but soon after you will pray for them to get caught because these characters will do some idiotic and horrific things that will make you cringe. All is presented in a very stylistic and visually manner no doubt to camouflage the darkness that hides within and to keep things light. It has to be otherwise you will be repulsed and become very angry and might break stuff because of it. Now it is important to make the distinction between normal comedy and black comedy. This movie deals with dark themes that you normally would not laugh about. But by having made this into one Michael Bay has been able to tell you the horrors of this story in a way that it won't turn you off if he had done it seriously. So it seems like there is more to Michael Bay than meets the eye. Do give this a chance, it is one of the best black comedies I have seen. 

Review The Avengers (2012)

genre: action, adventure, science fiction

This little review originally was written right after I had seen it in the cinema on 02-05-2012:

How to describe the experience I got today when watching The Avengers? Think amazing or awesome! Now this is how a blockbuster movie should be. It delivers on action, thrills,  drama, comedy and believe it or not great acting. Each superhero get the attention they deserve and more importantly the interactions between them felt like they were from the comics. I believe we have Joss Whedon to thank for that. Now this doesn't mean it's a perfect movie. Far from it. But so many things are good I can't even remember the flaws.  So why mention them? No point in me telling more. Simply go to the cinema already. AWESOME!

Edit on 16-08-2014:

Some time has passed, a lot more has been said of The Avengers against and for it and I want to add my two cents into this discussion that still is going on. Today I re watched the film and tried to be a little more critical and perhaps point out the flaws that I initially did not want to address. 

So what could be pointed out as flaws. Well, perhaps the incredibly simple plot of Loki and his army about to destroy Earth. Could they had made it more complex? Yes, they could have, but would it really have mattered? You have to ask yourself, what are superhero movies about. Most of the time it's about people or beings that have these extraordinary powers or conviction to go against the odds in order to save other beings. No matter how you look at it that is one incredible noble notion and is what makes us love these superheroes in whatever shape or form they come in whether they have superhuman powers or not.  A complicated plot could have added a little more but overall it's not what makes us love these kinds of movies. Plots of movies like these can be simple and very effective. People can relate to the superheroes portrayed in The Avengers because their fears and obstacles represent what normal people have to face everyday. Movies like these raise the spirit and make you feel good. This is something a director like Christopher Nolan does not understand. He got close in Batman Begins, but then after he demonstrated not knowing at all why most people love super hero comic books so much. Joss Whedon understands all too well and wisely decided to keep it simple. Although he did allow for his characters too shine like they should. Granted he was helped enormously of how Marvel set up the movies. And how they build up the anticipation for the main characters of those movies coming together in The Avengers. But most of it was also because the characterization of the Marvel heroes are close of who they are in the comic books. And these characters could be serious but also allowed comic relief. We get all of this with the Marvel Heroes interacting with each other and with common folk. 

With this in mind it is hard to point out other flaws because every event that occurs is used as a device to give you that good feeling at the end plus at the same time offer you some cool action. The Avengers is aware what it's strong points are and avoids being pretentious. To me that is something I am very happy about because pretension in films that don't back it up annoy the hell out of me. I personally don't find it really that interesting to speak of best super hero movie. Since I think every super hero movie has it's own merits. However I do think The Avengers is one of the best of the Marvel movies to be produced because it delivers on adventure and fun. It's how I would imagine a live action of an Avengers story line to be. If a movie still has an impact on you the second time around then you can not deny you have a classic on your hands.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Review Get On Up (2014)

genre: drama, biography, music

Get On Up starts real strong, compelling and funny but then after the first fifteen minutes it becomes messy real fast. And that is mostly because of lack of depth, story and very poor direction. For a film this long it's quite surprising to see how little is being told. You won't be much wiser of James Brown's past. It skips many essential details that would make him seem more like a fleshed out character. What I really missed is that you never get to know James Brown. You don't really see that much of a difference between him as performer and how he was in real life. He pretty much is the same overall. I read somewhere in his article where one of his ex wives was interviewed that was said he was a couch potato. That is such a big contrast to him as performer and very interesting to see. But they never show that side to him. There are so many sides to his character that are skipped on which is a real shame. Combine that with the fact that a lot of of what is happening is never explained fully. You barely see scenes that put things into context. They just happen and that is it. Then the director goes back and forth all the time which does not make sense since the newer events don't really connect to past events. It only confuses and does not really bring the drama you would expect. It is when these flashbacks occur how poorly Get On Up is directed. That having said however the acting is superb. Chadwick Boseman is excellent as James Brown and even manages to speak like him. Which is hilarious throughout the film since everyone acts like they understand him but you can see by the way they look they only get half of it. The acting is what kept me watching and I can sense there was a sincerity put into everything. But that alone is not enough for a biopic. You have to bring more to the table. It's fine to limit yourself to a few events. Only then you better maker sure those impress. And that very rarely happens. It's not that bad of a bad movie, but it is a little tasking to sit through. And I expected so much more. What is the point of telling the story of James Brown when you hardly tell something. Decent but don't get your hopes up.