Explosions, injuries, rewrites … Bond 25 seems beset by crisis. The result of intense media scrutiny, or a sign that the series is struggling to find a new direction?Continue reading
Diego Maradona: ‘The working-class boy from the shantytown signed with a legendary, down-at-heel team and helps them win their first championship.Continue reading
Box-office hit spawned franchise that had little interest in how women feel about sex.Continue reading
Director: Jon Watts
Cast: Tom Holland, Jake Gyllenhaal, Samuel L Jackson, Zendaya
Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)Continue reading
Critic’s Rating: 4.0/5
Rocketman Story: An epic musical fantasy about the incredible story of Elton John’s breakthrough years.
Rocketman Review: Before he became the flamboyant piano legend & international superstar Sir Elton John, he was a shy boy named Reginald Dwight. ‘Rocketman’ explores his formative years, tracing his origins through his music, as he began his journey into one of the most iconic artists of our time. Played by Taron Egerton, we discover how some of his biggest hits came to life through his collaborations with his best friend, Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell). As Elton John defined his stage personality over his years of success, the film highlights how Reginald Dwight’s problems manifested in various forms of addiction.
Director Dexter Fletcher knows that musical biopics are meant to offer insight into the mindset and psyche of what makes an artist tick. He presents the far-from-perfect life of Elton John in all its flawed, yet fabulous glory, without skimming over the parts that most others would rather forget. The film starts with the celebrated performer in rehab, dressed in a devilish costume, baring his demons to a group of strangers, as he begins to reminisce about his colourful life. This perfectly sets the tone for the film to make it clear this is not a fairy-tale sing-along. From there on out, the discography of Elton John’s career is used to fuel the narrative structure, while never being overbearing because it stays focused on its subject.
But that wouldn’t be as effective without Taron Egerton’s commitment to the lead role. He completely immerses himself into character, crooning Elton John’s hit singles that bring more credibility to the role beyond just a strong resemblance. Egerton also handles the emotionally heavy scenes with grace, particularly seen in the rockstar’s torrid affair with his manager John Reid (Richard Madden) and the estranged relationship with his parents, played by Bryce Dallas Howard and Steven Mackintosh. Their performances are certainly remarkable, but none more so than Jamie Bell as Bernie – Elton’s longstanding friend and songwriting partner. It’s impossible not to feel the soul of the music they created, which, if they weren’t massive hits already, are further elevated by their portrayals in this film. Similarly, ‘Rocketman’ raises the bar of what can be achieved in a musical biography. Rest assured this won’t be forgotten any time soon, certainly not during awards season.
Critic’s Rating: 3.5/5
STORY: A notorious ‘street rat’ Aladdin, feels a deep sense of connection with the Princess of the kingdom he resides in, but upon reaching her palace, he realises that winning her over is going to be tougher than he had imagined.
REVIEW: A local thief Aladdin (Mena Massoud), from the kingdom of Agrabah, falls in love with its princess – Jasmine (Naomi Scott) – and decides to persuade her, but the evil Grand Vizier Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) and chief advisor to the Sultan (Navid Negahban) put forward this condition – Aladdin must bring him the magical lamp and its Genie (Will Smith) that grants three wishes.
The story of Aladdin and the Genie is known to one and all and this live-action adaptation of Disney’s animated classic by the same name, which has originally immortalised this legendary tale, is no exception to that phenomenon. The fresh pairing of Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott works and is a welcome surprise as the duo share an amazing chemistry on screen and pretty much hold on to the likeability factors of their respective characters till the very end. Will Smith, the Genie, is a straight up natural as far as tickling our funny bones is concerned but again, it would be criminal to compare him to Robbin Williams’s 1992 act in the original movie as the standards set by the late actor-comedian are pretty high.
Jafar – the vengeful villain – is so bad in the movie that he’s actually good, and brownie points to director Guy Ritchie for fully exploring and bringing to light the twisted psyche of this greed-filled character, which ultimately makes you wonder – who’s the sinner and who has been sinned against.
However, the downside of the whole direction process is that it is somewhat mixed and some of the song-dance sequences look & feel forced and could have been avoided. Despite its grandeur and larger-than-life cinematography-animation, at two hours and eight minutes – the film starts to feel bit of a drag. The momentum, at which the film moves, is yet another problem that cannot be overlooked – all the characters are given ample time and attention to grow and develop, while the ending is wrapped up in a tearing hurry.
Kids born in the 90s, who have watched the cartoon version of this story, will find ‘Aladdin’ a bit too hard to get accustomed to in the beginning, but otherwise, the film – sans its minor hiccups – is congenial and establishes the ‘feel-good’ factor from frame one and maintains it till the curtains are drawn.
Critic’s Rating: 2.5/5
STORY: When two totally opposite con artists Josephine and Penny cross paths they eventually join hands together to rake in even bigger spoils. But to what extent will they be able to pull off their scams?
REVIEW: ‘The Hustle’ stars Anne Hathaway as Josephine Chesterfield, an elegant, sophisticated con artist who swindles rich men in the French town of ‘Beaumont Sur Mer’. Rebel Wilson is the socially awkward Penny who makes her way here to do her own share of scamming. But Josephine wants no interference in a place she believes is solely her area of operation and does all she can to get Penny out of the way. Which proves to be tougher than she thought. Eventually, as a last resort she takes Penny under her wing to teach her a few tricks of her trade and together they pull off a series of scams conning rich men, using Josephine’s mantra of “exploiting men’s inability to imagine a woman is cleverer than they are.”
The film is a remake of the 1988 comedy, ‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels’ with a gender switch (which in turn was remade from the 1964 film, ‘Bedtime Story’). Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson here are to what Michael Caine and Steve Martin were in the 80’s film. And while this gender switch could have translated into a swish female centric comedy, except for the fact that it simply doesn’t take off. The humour falls flat – there are very few laugh out loud moments and some are just cringe worthy. The storyline pretty much sticks to that of ‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels’ so there is nothing new there. At just one and half hours this one feels like a drag after a point.
Of course, Anne Hathaway looks ravishing in almost every frame with a wardrobe to die for. And she pulls off the snooty con woman act with an enviable high maintainence lifestyle rather well. Alex Sharp as Thomas Westerberg, an American tech wizard and billionaire is likeable. Rebel Wilson shoulders most of the responsibility for elucidating the laughter but it simply doesn’t cut ice beyond a few slapstick moments and some jokes. Josephine and Penny’s face offs reduce to bringing each other down and it goes a bit ho hum from there.
Director Chris Addison could have pushed this female version of ‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels’ to another level with all the ingredients at his disposal but it simply fails to touch that mark.
Critic’s Rating: 4.0/5
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum Story: John Wick (Keanu Reeves) becomes the target of assasins around the globe after a bounty of $14 million is placed on his head.
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum Review: In the third instalment of the ‘John Wick’ series, the famed assassin is declared ‘excommunicado’ after breaking the code of the High Table in the Continental lounge. Now on the run with a price tag of 14 million dollars, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) must fend for himself yet again, as all the assassins and hit men/women in the world are gunning for him. The ‘John Wick’ series continues to expand on the universe it established in the previous two films by introducing a whole new set of characters along with some returning vital players.
Ian McShane & Lance Reddick reprise their roles as Winston & Charon respectively, with the latter doing a lot more than merely serving guests at the concierge. Watch out for Silat masters Cecep Arif Rahman & Yayan Ruhian in arguably one of the most stunning pieces of fight choreography seen in this series so far, and that’s an extremely high bar to meet. Mark Dacascos is more than capable of going toe-to-toe with the best martial artists. He lends so much charisma to Zero that he often ends up being a scene-stealer while gracing the film with yet another breathless and nail-biting sequence. Asia Kate Dillon is menacing as the Adjudicator of the High Table and makes her presence felt. But the real MVP amongst all the new characters is Halle Berry as Sofia, a dog-loving assassin and John’s old friend. It’s safe to say her hounds redeem the death of the puppy which started this whole series, much to the delight of canine-lovers.
Driven by the notion of rules and consequences, the plot is standard and straightforward, so don’t expect anything more profound than what you see. But ‘Parabellum’ more than makes up for what it lacks in depth, with stunning visuals and captivating action. There’s little sense to the proceedings, and yet, you’ll be so utterly gobsmacked by the beauty in destruction, that logic won’t matter. Keanu Reeves puts in the hard work to allow for long takes and steady camerawork to make each dynamic movement register with impact. Helmed by director Chad Stahelski again after ‘John Wick 2’, ‘Parabellum’ plays to the actor’s strengths, allowing him to do what he does best. If the makers maintain this level of masterful execution, Keanu Reeves can continue to play this violent & virtually indestructible killing machine, and action lovers will gladly lap it up till the end of time. ‘Parabellum’ is an essential entry to this series and one that cannot be missed.
Critic’s Rating: 3.5/5
Pokémon Detective Pikachu Story: When Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) comes across a Pokémon he can understand, he realises he needs to work with it to help him find his missing father in Ryme City.
Pokémon Detective Pikachu Review: In a world where Pokémon live in the wild, Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) struggles to find his purpose. When his estranged, detective father goes missing under mysterious circumstances, he ventures into Ryme City in search of him. But the city isn’t any sprawling metropolis; it’s the only place where humans and Pokémon have learned to peacefully co-exist. That’s when he encounters Pikachu. Tim’s ability to understand the wise-cracking little Pokémon leads them to work together in search of Tim’s father, Harry. Tim and Pikachu begin to uncover the strange world of Pokémon and the larger scheme at play in Ryme City.
The absurd, yet adorable set of live-action characters from the anime Pokémon universe took the gaming world by storm in the mid-90s. The massive success of the games lead to expansions into TV series, comic books and animated films, so it shouldn’t come to anyone’s surprise that it’s the latest attempt by a film studio to convert the franchise into a movie universe. It’s a pretty bold move by Warner Bros. to introduce us to such a ridiculous premise, but the risk pays off. Chalk it down mostly to the endearing title character Pikachu, played by the actor at his irreverent best – Ryan Reynolds. He infuses the tiny, yellow, rodent-like creature with a distinct personality that instantly draws you into the film. The best scenes involve Pikachu bringing in Reynolds’ trademark impromptu humour and witty dialogue with both his Pokémon counterparts & humans.
This helps keep the film’s charming energy afloat, mainly because most of the human roles are quite bland. It’s no fault of the cast; Justice Smith is pretty good as Tim Goodman, but we don’t feel as much for his quest even though it is integral to the plot. The same can easily be said about the rest of the humans. Fortunately, the world of Ryme City is so well realised as a place that captures your imagination, making you wish it existed. The production design and visual effects are virtually seamless, and never take you out of the film, which is a massive advantage. Whether that’s enough to distract you from a clumsy plot and screenplay, depends on how much of a fan you are of the franchise. But Reynolds and director Rob Letterman manage to keep you entertained enough in this fun popcorn film, and might just be enough to convert young non-fans into Pokémon trainers.
Critic’s Rating: 4.5/5STORY: ‘Avengers: Endgame’ continues from its previous instalment ‘Avengers: Infinity War’, where a chain of catastrophic events destroyed half the universe. The remaining Avengers now come together for one final time to reverse the actions of the evil Thanos and restore the order of the universe. But will they succeed?
REVIEW: Overwhelming. It best describes the final chapter that culminates Marvel Cinematic Universe’s 21 iconic films into one. And that also describes the experience of watching your favourite superheroes come together for a singular goal, for one last time. Directors Anthony and Joe Russo ensure that the humongous build-up and the avalanche of expectations do not get the better of them. They deliver a largely wholesome product that is full of moments laced with action, emotion, comedy and drama. Writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely take you along, even if you haven’t been following the franchise. They do an incredible job with the screenplay to balance emotions with visual spectacle. So if you’re not a fan yet, chances are, you might become one after watching this instalment.
While the screen time for each character is not equal, their significance in the story is. And there are enough surprises in store, as far as their fates are concerned. ‘Endgame’ delivers quite well on the emotional quotient, bringing out superpowers and vulnerabilities of its cinematic demigods through their measured performances. From an upright Captain America (Chris Evans) to a stoic Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and from a straight-faced Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) delivering the punches to the reassuring presence of Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), ‘Endgame’ has it all and a lot more. Thanks to the conviction in performances, you also might just find yourself rooting for the bad guy, Thanos (Josh Brolin) at some point. However, it’s the comic collective of Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Ant Man (Paul Rudd) that ensures there are enough lighter moments in this otherwise heartfelt finale.
The action becomes progressively intense, but never overbearing. In fact, it remains relevant and true to the narrative, such that it weaves in enough opportunities for major plot twists that even the diehard fans may not see coming. The extensive CGI work adds to the visual appeal, even in 2D.
For the non-fans, the film’s explanatory tone might come across as a speed breaker at times, but for the fans, the same invokes hope and excitement, leading to constant gasps and howls.
Overall, ‘Avengers: Endgame’ is a befitting tribute to the Cinematic Universe that has spawned larger-than-life superheroes and super fans. At three hours plus, ‘Endgame’ delivers on a lot of its hallmark promises, leaving its fans with a range of emotions and fond memories.