Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Review: RAEES

Shah Rukh Is Hawt Action Anti-Hero
Nawazuddin Siddiqui Is Cool Cop.
The Combination Is Win-Win!

3 stars

Mini Review:

Gujarat state has strict prohibition laws, which means smugglers of all kinds of alcohol thrive. Raees and his best friend Sadiq become delivery boys for a local smuggler and soon go independant. A dogged cop wants to catch and disable Raees’ operations, but Raees outsmarts him every single time, until in a 70s style end with guns and alcohol and politics… It’s a welcome turn for Shah Rukh into an action hero and a great platform for the ever cool Nawazuddin Siddiqui.

Main Review:

Little Raees may be myopic in the classroom, but he certainly can see opportunity when the local alcohol smuggler Jayraj (Atul Kulkarni) looks for delivery boys. Under the nose of the cops, Raees (Shah Rukh Khan) and his best friend Sadiq (Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub) smuggle alcohol, and become his confirmed employees! The enmity begins when Raees and Sadiq grow up and want to get into the same business on their own. Not only does he become king, but rules the hearts of the people…

That Shah Rukh is hot even when he’s self-flagellating at the Ashura during Moharram is something you do not wish to admit. You seek the dimpled charmer you have seen in his romantic movies. But the beard cannot hide the charm and you fall in love with the badshah of romance again as he attempts to get the ball from his girl (Mahira Khan, in a role that she just does not fit in. She’s intimidated by the Khan and her acting skills are zilch, alas!). Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub plays the best friend again, and he does a superb job here.

But thankfully, it’s not the romance that makes the movie. It’s the action. Nawazuddin Siddiqui plays a cop Jaideep Ambalal Majmudar who is posted in Fatehpur and becomes a pain to deal with. He’s upright and unbreakable. The writers of the film give him the best lines and comebacks. He makes you smile just as much as Raees’ wicked ways to outsmart the ploys the cops use to stop alcohol smuggling. If you knew alcohol can be injected in tomatoes, you’d wonder how thirsty the public is for getting drunk!

Of course there is ambition and politics and guns, and even though Raees wants to just do ‘dhanda’ without hurting people, there is a little flashback of Raj Kapoor’s Shri 420 in the dream city he wishes to build. And there is betrayal too. But does Raees manage to wiggle out of that as well? It’s a great 70s style story where the baddie with a heart of gold outsmarts an upright cop.

Shah Rukh and Nawazuddin Siddique are simply fun. But at 143 minutes sometimes the cat and mouse game becomes tiresome. And the lacklustre music does not help despite the words that insist ‘Raees is single piece’ (one of a kind). Despite all this Shah Rukh pulls off an action hero role that clearly encroaches on Salman territory and manages to keep it convincing. In fact, the violence in the fight sequences make you squirm. And the anger in Shah Rukh’s surma-lined eyes feels straight out of Amitabh Bachchan revenge dramas like Kala Patthar (watch out for the scene from the film beautifully juxtaposed!). Watch it because the recent spate of silly romances have not touched you at all. The angry Shah Rukh fills in that space, and really well.

(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)

Review: KAABIL

Revenge. Story. So. Slow. You're. Ready. To. Kill. Them. All. Yourself.

2 stars

Mini Review:

A blind couple Rohan and Supriya Bhatnagar (Hrithik Roshan and Yami Gautam) are terrorised by a local lout Amit (Rohit Roy) and his sidekick Wasim. The duo rape Supriya and she kills herself. The young blind lad seeks help from the cops but they don't care because they are being paid off by the local politician (Ronit Roy). The last 30 minutes of the movie are about how Rohan extracts his revenge. Even though the action is violent, most of it is predictable. But the twist in the tale makes this long, slow tale worth the while. Hrithik Roshan's best work so far.

Main Review:

Blind boy meets blind girl in a blind date. Whaa?

For one angry moment you ask: How dare he shorten her name when he's just barely met her? But then they fall in love despite the tiresome dialog exchange which goes something like this:
'Two negatives don't make a positive.'
(Insert song where both smile too much but don't blink. Do blind people not blink?)
'See, two negatives make a positive, after all!'
(Insert yet another song, words to which you don't catch because they're smiling too much and not blinking their eyes at all) 

The two blind people get married. 

The people who throw them together are never seen again, even though the two really need support. Even the lad's friend vanishes when he's most needed as support (when the girl is raped, no one helps them!)

The couple - on the way to the hospital - is conveniently kidnapped by the bad guys. We know the cops are terrible and in cahoots with politicians, but unlike the other release this week this movie is not set in the 70's, so the rape and the horrendous dialog before the rape is just awful: Do blind people make love with lights on? They must be touching, feeling each other because they cannot see when lovemaking...

If you outrage at this casual misogyny, then you'd be upset at the way the cop talks to the couple. Girish Kulkarni's Inspector Nalavade is so terrible he's good. His boss, who doesn't know whether to be good or bad (Narendra Jha) is good too.

The girl, now raped by the louts kills herself. And instead of crying with Hrithik, you wonder how she put the chair on the bed, climbed the chair, then threw the dupatta over the fan, made a noose, wore it around the neck and kicked the chair... Was there no easier way of killing herself? But you stop from thinking unkind thoughts because the cops are now being even more unkind to the lad, who says he's going to get justice without the help of the cops.

You look at the watch. It's been two hours. When will he get revenge?

In thirty minutes, he kills the two rapists and the bad politician. You wish he had harmed the sleazy cop as well. They die with the most obvious smoking guns provided. You are simply aghast at the violence involved with the deaths.

It is admittedly the best performance by Hrithik Roshan, but everything takes so long to come to a conclusion, you just wish there was a 'fast-forward' button on the screen. The twist in the tale is simply brilliant. It's a tale worth watching if you have the patience or if you are a fan.

Friday, January 20, 2017


Michael Keaton is The Man!

3.5 stars

Mini Review:

A traveling milkshake machine salesman - Ray Kroc – has had no sale and is about to give up on everything, when his curiosity takes him to California. Who wants not one but eight machines? He is a dealmaker, a hustler and sees huge potential in what he discovers there! McDonald’s! His vision pushed the two brothers into partnership, and slowly but surely Kroc takes over and creates McDonalds Corporation. Michael Keaton just dazzles in his role as Ray Croc, and even when you realise he is a crook, you cannot but admire him! A true story brilliantly told.

Main Review:

Michael Keaton shows up as a traveling salesman who listens to motivational records in order to continue in his thankless job. When his secretary (played with a straight face by Kate Kneeland) informs him that someone wants six machines he actually calls them. The McDonalds brothers run a small restaurant and they need not just six, but eight milkshake machines. Curious, he travels across the continent to California and discovers a super new concept: food wrapped in paper, delivered within seconds of placing order, and tasty! No endless wait, wrong order and overworked staff at drive-ins!

Kroc’s enterprising head can foresee great things for this superb little restaurant idea. As Dick McDonald complains: We let a wolf in the henhouse! You know that as audience you ought to hate the man’s guts. He dares to take someone else’s business and slowly but surely owns it. But you smile and gawp at the screen at the sheer chutzpah of the man, who preaches the need for fast food all over America, creating the story of the Golden Arches we all know and love so well.
It is a story of American enterprise that is at once appalling in its high-handedness as well as admirable in its audacity. The more the McDonald brothers stop Kroc from expanding, the more loopholes he finds in the original contract and does exactly what he thinks is right for the business.

He is so involved in this great idea of creating a family food chain, that he has nothing more in common with his country club wife (a rather underwhelming role for the brilliant Laura Dern) who does not understand why he needs to socialize with people she thinks are ‘common’ folk. But then there’s no stopping Ray Kroc.

Michael Keaton is simply superb. He shows what a great salesman he is, doesn’t he? He talks his way into our heads and hearts as well, because you almost applaud his madness, his persistence. You will love every dialog in the movie and find yourself nodding in agreement: Contracts are like hearts, they’re made to be broken.

(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)


The Very Blah Man

1 star

Mini Review:

Three friends in Wisconsin move into a creepy off campus house. Of course they find doors opening and shutting on their own, weird noises and the girl begins to feel sickly. A seance reveals there is negative energy inside the house. Turns out that the side table has a name carved out. If you say or think about the ‘Bye Bye Man’ he haunts you and kills you. Yes, it’s that predictable and hence really boring.

Main Review:

The house is creepy, sure. And the three people who move in don’t check why there are smaller doors inside the bedroom, along the corridors. As audience you know creepy things will emerge from those small doors, or lure regular people into the darkness. So you watch with sense of ‘when do the characters get to know the evil’? Alas, you’ve already watched Conjuring 2 and nothing, not even the Bye Bye Man can be scarier than that experience of seeing the nun inside the house.

The idea of evil getting inside your head is fabulous. ‘Don’t say it, don’t think it!’ is a super creepy mantra but it’s not used right. It’s just that the story unfolds in the most ridiculous manner. Eliot and his girlfriend Sasha and their friend John are affected by the evil because Elliot discovers the mantra and repeats ‘Bye Bye Man’ not understanding what it is all about. Of course he googles the name! And at the library a really friendly librarian (do they even exist?) helps him unearth the story from the sixties.

Trouble is, if no one knows the name because the man from the sixties killed everyone, then how come he left so much of the ‘forbidden’ name everywhere? It’s a tad unbelievable. Plus like all horror movies the girl begins to cough and is feverish. Where did that come from? What about the coins? What is the thing with the evil dog? There’s so much introduced and nothing is done about it. It feels more like a let-down rather than scary.

The last twenty minutes of the film are what horror films are all about: blood and gore and mayhem. And all of a sudden we have Carrie Ann Moss turning up as investigator. Where did she come from? You sit up and take notice but again, her appearance is like not thought out at all. Elliot says he won’t say the name or she is sure to die and she just tamely agrees! Then they introduce Faye Dunaway in an interesting scary scene where she begins to explain why she survived, but then again Elliot forgets the lesson and lets the Bye Bye Man enter his head. By now, the audience is fed up and ready to go home. The evil has failed.

(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)

Friday, January 13, 2017


Haraamkhor Kaun?

3 stars

Mini Review:

In a small town, when a young girl battling hormones battles loneliness and finds it easy to seduce a local teacher, who thinks nothing of but his own pleasure, there is chaos in the lives of a young lad (and his friend) who stalk her constantly. This is such fearlessly new storytelling, it takes getting used to. But it’s a story that needs to be told.

Main Review:

Sandhya (Shweta Tripathi, in her debut film matches acting chops with the ever awesome Nawazuddin) is in her early teens, spends her time away from school and tuition mostly alone at home. Her father who is a police officer leaves home early in the morning and comes back home drunk late at night.

She seeks solace in seduction. A willing schoolteacher with a penchant for violence seduces Sandhya. Shyam the schoolteacher is played brilliantly by Nawazuddin Siddiqui, who seems to embody the title of the film. He also is the after school lessons teacher for a gaggle of kids and Sandhya is one of the students too. So are the two boys Kamal and Mintu (they are a find, they are! So natural in front of the camera, they could give any international young stars a run for their money), who stalk Sandhya (Kamal is in love with Sandhya and Mintu is the wingman).

In fact, the whole story is innocently told through Kamal and Mintu’s point of view. They witness everything and begin to hate the teacher. They annoy him and annoy him and then annoy him some more until there is only one way out. And it will shock you more than Nawazuddin raising his hand to the schoolgirls. Those of us living in sanitised urban surroundings will wince at the casualness of the violence in film. You will worry for the young Sandhya who casually eats ice cream, teasing and provoking Shyam when she should be worried for her physical safety. You’ll instantly hate Sandhya’s dad and his girlfriend. You will laugh nervously at the jokes cracked by the Kamal and Mintu, and you will have all kinds of premonitions about the end. And yet when the end comes, you will wish you had not seen it coming.

When the film was first shown at the Mumbai International Film Festival in 2015, it clearly shows how Sandhya is an equal participant in the seduction and flirtation with Shyam. But the version releasing comes with a disclaimer about how seducing children is a crime and puts the blame squarely on Shyam. Also if the film feels choppy (hence extra art-house), it is because the Censor board has been very liberal with its pair of scissors. In reality, the title belongs to the Censor Board and not poor Shyam.

(this review appears in nowrunning dot com)

Review: XXX Return Of Xander Cage

Dhishoom! Dhishoom! Bang! Bang! Dhishkyaon! Crash! Thoda Headache.

2 stars

Mini Review:

From the very first scene, the audience is plunged into action as they see satellites crashing on to people. Of course a rogue agent or a terrorist is orchestrating this vis a device called Pandora’s Box which is making satellites crash at will. And it is up to Xander Cage who is living anonymously and his team to save the world. The action is relentless, the lines are corny, but there is no heart to the story.

Main Review:

Action movies should have more than just a line of plot to keep the audience interested. Guns, girls and muscles can only keep you interested for so long. And boy! There’s a lot of that in the movie. Not that the action is boring, but that’s all there to the film. And somewhere between awe of the stunts Vin Diesel can perform and jaw-dropping amazement at the length of Deepika Padukone’s boots, you are hooked.

So with this movie we see a Bollywood actor in a Hollywood film. The news brought groans from everyone: Would the role be as silly as Anil Kapoor’s in Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol? Or would it be a blink and miss Irrfan Khan in Jurassic World? Thankfully when you see her in action you can only nod your head in approval. It is a role where she is a part of an action team. And that’s good, because she’s not just an ornament. We liked that.

Vin Diesel is himself. Swagger and muscle and he know the audience is with him the moment he jumps off the TV tower and skis down the jungle slopes and then skateboards downhill…You don’t know why you are holding your breath and when you know why he steals the contraption from the TV tower, you go, ‘Awwwww! So Sweet!’ The stunts he performs maybe performed in front of a green screen and not real, people will say. But he makes it believable, and that is good enough for audience hungry for action that’s not about a superhero. Donnie Yen is amazing too. He kicks and punches his way through a whole lot of baddies and you find yourself kicking and punching in your head too.

The set action pieces for the team towards the end are brilliantly choreographed. Especially the one set piece between Ruby Rose and Deepika Padukone. The talent that is Tony Ja, is a little underutilized, as are the other rough chaps in the team.

Alas, when the action is so obvious, the main villain is predictable too. If only there had been a little more to the story, than just corny lines, this film would have been very, very good.

Review: OK Jaanu

Jaani! Jaanu Ko Maar Daalo!

Rating: Average film hai yeh. Razai mein ghus ke so jaao instead.

Mini Review:

Aditya Roy Kapoor's Adi and Shraddha Kapoor's Tara decide to live-in. Seriously, folks! Young people should be saying, 'Whatevs!' and not watching a movie about this. But sorry, middle aged uncles: the director, the production house, and the original old man of the movies think this idea is worth 137 minutes of your life. And they keep repeating 'Ok Jaanu!' as if they had collectively discovered hashtags.

Main Review:

Dekho boss, Aditya Roy Kapoor has played the drunk lad, a boy who kills himself for lou and that's what you remember him. So when he plays shrimaan aashiq in this movie too, you feel cheated when he doesn't even attempt to drink himself to oblivion here, let alone killing himself. That is left for the audience: Each time they say, 'Ok, Jaanu!' people should take a swig from their hip flask, and diabetics should give themselves an insulin shot. It is not just smarmy to hear them say that, it is positively puke-worthy.

So why did I fall in love with O Kaadhal Kanmani? It's the same story, and it is made by the same old man of the movies? Why did it not feel icky? (Many people hated it!)

Dulquer Salman and Nithya Menen were not acting. They were not aware of the camera in the room, in the train, in the coffee shop, in the office. So where complete credit goes to Mani Ratnam for figuring out how to deal with actors, in Ok Jaanu you are not allowed to forget the presence of a camera at all. It's omnipresent and even when Shraddha bites Aditya's ear playfully, his reaction is studied, his wince is fake. Plus for some reason you as audience want to tell her to go to your room and change those Gujarati mirrorwork wala shorts and wear salwaar kameez! Wont the mirrors on the butt crack and hurt her as soon as she sits down? Nithya, on the other hand came across as a girl who knows her mind.

So the two young lovers don't want to get married because they are serious about their careers. They claim that a couple of times, at least. And we see them do not a single days worth of work ever! She saunters off from her office because he calls, and he never seems to go back to the office after telling his idea of a video game to his boss. 

While you're mad at them for wasting time, guess what do they do? He picks her up on his bike, and then they're riding taxis (not one cabbie refuses them) and buses (empty ones too!) and trains (strangely empty always!). Now riding in double-decker buses is cute and all, but where did he park the bike? It is never there at home either? And what's with the strange weather? Monsoon in Mumbai is grey, not bright sunshine at all! 

Their love is so bland, their chemistry is less than what we would see between 'cousin brotther from the Delhi', you start looking at geographical liberties the movie takes: they get off a double decker bus on Marine Drive and are seen eating ice cream at the Birdsong cafe in Bandra. Leela Samson lives on Malabar hill, but she's lost in Mohammed Ali Road and then rescued near what looks like Radio Club in Colaba. What a waste...

They live-in at Naseeruddin Shah's home as paying guests. Here too, Naseeruddin Shah behaves like he's in La La Land. No Mumbai landlord is going to allow one rent for a room if two people are going to stay! 

Jokes apart, the one saving grace of the film is the elegant Leela Samson, who plays the same role in OK Kanmani. Her confusion because of her disease, her gentle conversation is wonderful. Although Naseeruddin Shah cannot help ham his role, the moment where he hears Shraddha sing, that reaction is pure genius. I wish their story were the film, and not the silly love story of live-ins. It would have been real had Shraddha Instagrammed his wet towel instead of cleaning up the room, and slapped him when he calls the Ahmedabadi architect 'budhau!'. That's a rather insulting epithet from a new boyfriend who does not how much she respects him. The two young lovers are doing what Mani Ratnam/Shaad Ali/Karan Johar think young people do.

What made us weary was the effort the writer has put in, squeezing out any and every chance of saying, 'Ok Jaanu!' Imagine this conversation between the love birds: 
'These are our last ten days together!'
'Yes they are!' 
'So we should spend them together, okay?!'
'Yes we shall!'
'Okay naa?'
'Okay Jaanu!'

Sigh. It's like this with every conversation they have, every decision they take, and then they rub noses and bring a little bit of Maori culture to Bombay. You are reminded again, that these are not kisses from Notorious. And you wish the audience would do an All Blacks Haka and stop them from saying 'Okay Jaanu!' to each other.

P.S. Rajkumar's 'Jaani' will always be > Ok Jaanu!

(I also write for nowrunning dot com. this review is different)

Friday, January 06, 2017


Heartbreakingly Beautiful

3.5 stars

Mini Review:

A young boy’s nightmares seem to come true when the tree outside his home wakes up and turns into a monster who tells him three stories and demands the truth from the lad. The stories seem to be disconnected at first but become lessons that the boy has to learn. Do the stories help heal his relationship with his grandmother? Does he come to terms with his mother’s illness? The film is heartbreakingly beautiful. A must watch.

Main Review:

The Director J.A. Bayona takes the audience through a heartbreaking journey of emotions and upheavals in a young boy’s life. As audience you know that his mother (played beautifully by Felicity Jones) is suffering from a terminal disease, and the cruel grandmother (Sigourney Weaver) wants the best for her daughter, but the story is so beautifully woven, we wait for the truth to hit the lad (Lewis MacDougall). But do we really want to see the boy suffer the truth? Are the stories told by the tree monster (voiced brilliantly by Liam Neeson) just random? Or are they helping the boy discover himself?

The movie is based on the book by Patrick Ness and even though it is said that the books are always better, this one time when the stories that the monster tells are rendered beautifully in watercolor in the movie. But the dilemmas these stories represent are as ancient as the hills: what is right and wrong? What is sin and who is the sinner? What is faith? You have watch the watercolors come alive in order to understand how stunning simple stories can look.   

An evil young and beautiful queen, an old king, a prince and a farmer’s daughter is a tale that you have heard before. But the queen isn’t evil and the love isn’t true. The apothecary’s story tests faith. And the story of the invisible man makes you weep because somewhere we all have voices we have suppressed because of different things. Bullies at the young boy’s school will make you itch to fight back. The need to scream against injustice against the boy (and you, the audience) will overwhelm you. And that is an achievement for any director.

You are so easily transported from being an audience into watching the movie from the point of view of the boy that it seems like movie magic when the lights come on. Take your time recovering. This journey has been weepy, happy, tragic, angry and all together satisfying.      

(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)

Review: ALLIED

Casablanca Ki Maa Ki

1.5 stars

Mini Review:

Set during the World War 2, this romance between Wing Commander Max Vatan and Marianne Beausejour comes under the scanner when the spy agency suspects that Marianne is a German spy. Even though the cast is amazing, the plot plods along a predictable path, and the result is tiresome watch.

Main Review:

With a cast like Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard to play the lead, a romance set among spies and war should have been sublime. Alas! Despite the valiant effort made by Marion Cotillard to look stunning, the chemistry between the two lead actors is no more than a rather wet dishrag.

The art direction is stupendous. The airfield and the uniforms are stunning, as are the German automobiles and guns and uniforms. Hobar, the German officer who holds the invites to the German Ambassador’s party is played by August Diehl (you saw him in Inglourious Basterds and Salt) makes more of an impact in his small role than the hero does in the entire movie.

Brad Pitt falls in love with his supposed collaborator, resistance leader Marion Cotillard in Casablanca. Had they set this part of the movie anywhere else, the audience would have been forgiving. But the whole set up in Casablanca is so pathetic, their attempt to cash in on the movie history the city holds no water at all. In fact, Marion Cotillard’s splendid gowns and laugh does nothing at all. And no matter how many intimate scenes they fake as pretend husband and wife, their ‘falling in love’ seems like a bad Hollywood trope.

The film actually begins when the two come to London and settle down as real husband and wife. But then again predictability rules. You just realise how pointless the whole exercise is and leave the theater making a note of the excellent mustard yellow gloves Marion wears…

(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)


Paka Diya Yaar Is Journey Ne!

1.5 stars

Mini Review:

What can be more tedious than watching someone eat breakfast in a spaceship alone? Someone drinking whiskey, of course! Jim is on an intergalactic travel ship in 120 years of hibernation when a malfunction wakes him up earlier than the other passengers. He in turn wakes up Aurora to keep him company. A couple of moral moments apart their journey is like really pathetic facebook update of other people’s travels.

Main Review:

What would a girl and a boy do on a gigantic space cruise ship alone? Play basketball, dance the advanced Dance Dance Revolution, eat food at specialty restaurants, drink at the bar, swim, jog, make love, and yes, walk outside the ship in space… If that list is boringly obvious, make the girl Jennifer Lawrence and the boy Chris Pratt. Even then, Matt Damon’s attempt to grow potatoes on Mars when he’s left alone on the red planet in The Martian, seems so much more interesting.

A twist needs to be told, of course: Her waking up was not a malfunction. Is this a plot spoiler? Hardly. You actually hope that the revelation will do something. You will be disappointed. She jogs, he tinkers. She swims, he tinkers. She cries, he tinkers…

But the ship begins to malfunction and the two passengers get temporary help in the shape of Laurence Fishburne. It is then up to Jim, an ordinary mechanic to help resolve the crisis of the ship falling apart. This part is so unbelievable, the groans from the audience should have been enough to tear that ship (and it’s 4998 passengers and 250 odd crew members still in happy hibernation) apart.

Jennifer Lawrence is luminous in the film but she’s got the part of damsel in distress and there’s only so much she is allowed to do: look good in an alleged futuristic swimsuit and without clothes. But the film is rated for family viewing so the images are not too explicit.

Chris Pratt does a decent job as a creepy, selfish stalker who does something so heinous, you cannot picture him as the perfect boyfriend. In fact, there are times you wish Jennifer Lawrence would turn into the alien (remember the Sigourney Weaver film?) and haunt him and kill him slowly, making this into a horror film. Now that cat and mouse game on a gigantic cruise ship traveling through space would have been a more watchable movie…

When the movie is so dull, the only thing left for an audience to do is wonder: who made the beds? Chris Pratt is a slob when he’s alone. How come the beds are made when there are two of them?  


(the review appears on nowrunning dot com)



2 Stars

Mini Review:

Dr Sofia Rikkins has created a genetic memory unlocking Animus machine and she thinks Callum Lynch has the memories that will lead them to the proverbial apple of Eden which holds the power to obedience and will end all violence. But does her father have other plans? Will Callum Lynch’s Assassin memories help the Templars eradicate the Creed? Based on a video game series, this film is very CGI heavy, but the star cast gives us a taste of what the movie could have been.

Main Review:

Let’s all agree that no video game based movie has created any kind of box office hysteria that the games and books have caused. Alas, despite a fabulous star cast: Michael Fassbender (plays Callum Lunch), Marion Cotillard (Dr. Sofia Rikken) and Jeremy Irons (Rikken), the movie falls short of the popularity of the game. Assassin’s Creed is a game (and books by Oliver Bowden) that follows the world of assassins who fight the Templars. The game takes you through tasks that lead you to unlocking secrets. And the books are beautifully written, with every book taking you to a different world - Byzantine, Venice, Spain and so on - in order to get rid of the evil Templars.

As movie audiences, you have seen books-turned-movies that show how amazing the knights Templars were (Da Vinci Code and others). The Assassin’s Creed stories set up the Templars as villains because they want to rule the world under one God, their God and they want to silence every other way of life. This seems unfair from the point of view of freedom and free will. It’s a fabulous premise which is exploited by the game and the books very well. In the movie though the need to show all the action overtakes the setting up of the story.

That’s why we don’t understand the importance of a finger being chopped off to make room for the hidden blade. It just seems like needless drama. Plus even non-gamers can figure out that the animus is merely using Callum’s memories to get to the apple of Eden, and that these guys with such a cool technology might be the Templars. Once you figure that out, the film becomes very obvious.

Had they simply based it on the first book: Assassin’s Creed Renaissance, the movie would have been immensely enjoyable. The book is set in Italy, and the young lad Ezio Auditore de Firenze trains to be an assassin after his family is killed by the Templars and learns about the enmity of the two groups on the route of becoming a full-fledged assassin.

The CGI fight sequences are good fun and keep you glued to the screen, but after a point, you want more than just the hero and his gal jumping from rooftop to rooftop. You want to know more about the other interesting characters imprisoned in the same animus prison as Fassbender is. The movie could have been amazing, but despite the collaboration with Ubisoft (the creators of the game) it just falls short like boy who attempts to jump off the roof...

(the review appears on nowrunning dot com)

Review: SING


3 stars

Mini Review:

When a Koala called Buster Moon is on the brink of losing his beloved theatre, he organises a music competition. ‘All animals great and small’ come out of their lives and participate, but fate (and a trio of angry bears) intervene. Will the cute Koala and his singing menagerie save the theatre? This film is meant for children, but when they play Cohen and Sinatra, you know it’s a win-win for grown-ups too!

Main Review:

Have you harboured secret ambition to be the next star on a TV reality music show? Or participate and win dance championship show? Or simply live dreaming of ‘big things you will do some day’? Then this tug-at-heartstrings film is for you.

The Koala is in so much trouble and yet he is so cute, you begin to root for him and hope the bank does not foreclose on his theatre.

You tap your feet to the music and forget that these are animals. Overworked and under-appreciated housewives, sons who do not wish to follow their father’s footsteps, daughters so shy their talent remains hidden… You have seen these people in your lives. To watch an anthropomorphic film makes those familiar hurts less painful. The film deals with these emotions with very light, deft strokes.

Very small children may not find too much in the film that will keep them engaged, because the treatment of the film is rather adult. And grown up kids may not find the choice of songs like Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’, ‘Girl From Ipanema’ on Saxophone, or Paul Anka’s ‘My Way’ to their liking. Yes, Ash does compose and sing ‘Freedom’ but the choice of songs still seems a tad more for grown ups with a sense of nostalgia rather than young and hip. In fact, the little kids this generation are not even listening to ‘Call Me Maybe’

The most fun parts are the auditions of course! The Japanese ‘Kira Kira Killer’ and ‘Koi Koi Koi’ performed for a group that refuses to go away, and the lone sheep belting out, ‘Baaaaayyybeee’ from Seal’s ‘Kiss From A Rose’ make you smile and you feel in sync when Rosita discovers her inner dancer when she hears Gypsy Kings sing ‘Bamboleo’.

The plot is predictable, but the songs and the way the plot unfolds holds movie magic. What else is there?

(the review appears on nowrunning dot com)



2 stars

Mini Review:

The film has a great premise: Evil needs to be evicted scientifically and it does not have a religion. Dr. Ember gets into the mind of the kid who has been taken over by the evil being and attempts to wake up the child by showing that evil is in the dreams. Although the film falters a bit in the execution, the idea of Exorcism that is not religious in nature is a welcome one. It has many creepy, scary moments even though the science in the movie is suspect.

Main Review:

Dr. Seth Amber is wheelchair bound after a car accident that killed his wife and kid. He has a unique ability: he can get into the minds of people possessed by evil entities. And he has saved many lives where the Vatican and it’s team of exorcists have failed.

So far so good. You like the idea of dealing with a demon without the priests and the crucifixes without the green projectile vomit, the writing on the wall with blood, the violent breaking of furniture, rattling of doors and windows and the tried and done-to-death twisting of heads and limbs. But then the evil entity named Maggie grabs the young boy’s dad and holds him aloft in the air then kills him by smashing him on the floor. And the film sort of disintegrates.

If the dad is vital to the boy who is possessed, why kill him? Won’t that bring the boy out of the dream like state he is in, where he thinks all is well between dad and him? And we see the dad being taken away by the ambulance, but no one questions what is going on in that apartment? No policeman is curious enough to find out what happened, how, what the strange contraptions were…

If the evil Maggie is looking for Dr. Ember to destroy him, why does she not go straight to him? She’s unafraid of God, then Maggie could have got to Ember by possessing the priest friend (Tomas Arana, you saw him in Gladiator) who has some really cool artifacts. Having another demented person do the killing seems to be too random.

Aaron Eckhart looks suitably disheveled and traumatised on the wheelchair, and you wish more was shown than they actually do. The science and his assistants are interesting, but you want to know how they became a team. And this is where you realise that this story would work better on TV.

The evil is creepier than what you have seen in regular horror movie fare because it has no biblical or pagan back-story. No wronged past as a human being so now it is avenging. This evil Maggie just is truly evil. And its motive is simply to hurt Dr.Ember by hurting everyone he loves. Now that is truly evil and as Ember says, ‘There are worse things than dying,’

You come away with that scary music ringing in your ears, wishing they had polished up the science a bit and then released the film…

(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)