Movie review – Transformers: Age of extinction

Transformers Age of extinction.One would be forgiven for thinking that after three movies, the Transformers series had no where to go but up, right? Oh my sweet summer child.

It has been four years since the events of the last movie. The Autobot-Human alliance has officially ended. An elite CIA unit called Cemetery wind (where do they come up with these names?) has been tasked with hunting down the remaining Decepticons. However the team has a hidden agenda.

Enter failed inventor, Cade Yeager (Mark Whalberg) and his daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz). Cade is a single parent and like all responsible parents, Cade is looking to put his daughter through college fixing his neighbours’ broken tape recorders and selling scrap. During one of his Salvage hunter expeditions, he buys a beat up truck which turns out to be a Transformer.

Meanwhile, a corporation called KSI, headed by Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci) is working to replicate Transformer technology for military use.

No matter how you dress it, the movie is bad. Sure if you are into mindless explosions and cheesy dialogues, then the movie might be your kind of thing but I can’t imagine anyone who has any kind of taste for movies walking out of the theatre with anything good to say about the movie. The CG is great as usual but it is nothing you haven’t seen in the previous three movies.

The plot is essentially a rehash of the previous movie: Humans giving up on Autobots. Autobots not giving up on humans. Hidden military agenda. Fights. Explosions. Slo-mo-people-thrown-out-o-autobot-mid-air-transformation-catch-them-in-the-nick-of-time sequence. More explosions. China. Mindless mayhem. Optimus Prime’s final message. Cut to credits.

One would think that 165 million would buy you a better script writer. Wrooong! The studio brought back, Ehren Kruger, the same guy who wrote the ‘story’ for the previous two movies.

I guess the U.S military declined to sponsor Bay this time so some of the really cool military tech scenes from the previous movies are missing. Instead, half the movie is set in Hong Kong with random Chinese actors appearing along the way for no apparent reason. The movie is essentially sponsored by the Peoples republic of China.

As if that wasn’t enough, there is shameless product placement by Red Bull, Bud lights, Beats and Victoria’s secret. And they are in no way subtle.

Accompanying Prime are three new Autobots; Drift, who for some unknown bizzare reason looks (and talks) like a Japanese Samurai. He transforms into a Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse for Gods sakes. A Bugatti. It’s an Italian car. What wereTransformers-4-Age-Of-Extinction they thinking? John Goodman voices Hound, an Oshkosh defence MTV, Cross hairs, an autobot paratrooper voiced by John DiMaggio and everyone’s favourite, Bumble Bee.

Stanley Tucci, you poor man, what sort of madness made you agree to this role? Although, in his defence, he does deliver the only line in the movie that made the audience laugh.

A Transformer named Lockdown serves the role of the primary villain. Lockdown is essentially a bounty hunter travelling the galaxy looking for bad ass transformers to collect for his trophy case. Beginning to connect the dots now?

Poor editing, cringe worthy dialogues and a non existent script makes this one movie you can definitely miss. The Studio should really look for a new director and script writer if they are thinking of making any more of these movies.

The One Review Rating: 3/10 

IMDB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2109248/

 

Movie Review – Godzilla (2014)

The Return of Godzilla (1984) is, if my memory serves me right, is the first monster movie I ever watched. So needless to say, the big guy has a special place in my heart. Hollywoods treatment of the monster has been nothing short of disastrous so far. The ’94 version starring Matthew Broderick (of all the people) still makes people want to cringe. And that was from Roland Emmerich, the guy who makes his living on disaster movies.

What then can, Gareth Edwards, a relatively unknown director do? Quite a bit, as it turns out. I haven’t watched any of his earlier works so I had no preconceived notion of what to expect as far as direction was concerned. Well, I am here to say that Godzillas’ latest outing is far better and more watchable than the previous one.  He has shown enormous restraint in not allowing the movie to turn into a run of the mill monster flick.

Godzilla 2014

The story for one, is different. The movie is not entirely about Godzilla wreaking havoc on a generic American/Japanese city, the chaos that ensues and the US military. Although, to be fair, it does have all that. But it is not just about that.

Dr. Ichiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe, who else) is called to a quarry site in the Philippines where a huge skeleton is discovered. Inside it, they find two egg shaped pods; one still intact and another one, that has apparently hatched.

Joe Brody (Bryan cranston) and his wife works in one of the several nuclear power plants in Japan. During a routine inspection, a tremor leads to a plant shutdown, and Brody is forced to close the containment door with his wife still inside (Loss of family moment. Check.). Cut to several years later; Brody’s son Ford is now living with his wife and son in San Francisco. Ford is an explosive ordinance disposal officer in the Army and he has just returned home on leave. However, the reunion with his family is short lived. He gets a call from Japan; apparently papa bear has been a bad boy and was caught trespassing in the quarantine area (where the plant stood earlier). Ford, now, has to get to Japan to haul Dad’s sorry ass out of jail.

We then discover that in the gap of 15 years, Dad has become something of an expert on earthquakes, echolocation, mating calls of birds and what not. He tells Ford that he believes that the incident 15 years back was not an earthquake as everyone claimed and that the government was covering something up. His son of course thinks that his old man has gone soft in the head.

Nevertheless, to humour his father, they set out together in to the quarantined zone (hey, wasn’t he just arrested… never mind) where they are, wait for it, are arrested (again) and brought to the plant site where Ken Watanabe is in charge (because, you know, thats what they do when they catch people trespassing – take them to the lead scientist).

This is where they discover that everything is not as it seems (spooky?).

What do they see? What caused those tremors 15 years back? What came out of that egg that hatched several years back? Do they even have Gojira in the movie? All answers to be had at a movie theatre near you.

There is nothing much to be said about the acting department. Sure, it has Bryan Cranston but there is nothing in there that couldn’t have been done by any other actor. The same is true for all other roles. The people are generic placeholders for the mandatory roles in a monster movie – the guy who knows everything and tells everyone else they have no idea what is coming, the soldier with a family to get to and who can do stuff that doesn’t even fit his job description, the Scientist who seems to know everything about monsters (without , you know, ever having ever seen one in real life), the US Navy commander who knows nothing but believes there is nothing that cant be solved by firing a few missiles.

Having said that, the movie is quite watchable because of the inclusion of certain key movie plots (which I shall not reveal here). This helps steer the movie away from a one dimensional monster romp to something else altogether.

Oh, before I forget, I liked this move far better than Pacific Rim. Pacific Rim was a turd, to say the least.

The One Review rating: 6/10

IMDB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0831387

robocop

Movie Review – RoboCop (2014)

robocopIt is the year 2028. America is doing what it does best; giving the rest of the world a healthy dose of ‘democracy’. Only this time the dirty work is done by machines: drones and robots that are fully automated military units designed not to feel, not to think, just act.

OmniCorp, the company behind these bots are rolling in moolah. But Company CEO, Raymond Sellers (Keaton), isn’t happy. Their systems are in use everywhere in the world except for America. The American people don’t want a machine patrolling their streets. People have an inherent distrust of walking machines with guns. Strange. Sellers wants the situation rectified ASAP. He calls in his top scientist, Dr Dennet Norton, and unveils his grand idea: put a man inside a machine. People will buy that right? The fire power of a machine and the intuition of a man. Geeenius!

Enter, Alex Murphy. Dedicated officer. Loving husband. The usual. There is the mandatory I-don’t-do-it-for-the-money, I-do-it-because-it-is-my-duty-bit shoot-out bit where his partner gets shot. Soon, Murphy’s car is blown to smithereens with him around. 90% burns all over. Most of his organs are failing. He is as good as dead.

But wait, whom do we know has the technology to put a man inside a machine? Who? Ok we know who. Before you can say hot chocolate, Murphy is the man in the machine. Soon he is cleaning up the crime infested city of Detroit (surprisingly like present day Detroit)

robocop center

I grew up on movies like Robocop (the original). The ’87 version was a classic and a movie far ahead of its time. The concept was new and there were
several elements that made the movie enjoyable. The lead actor was likeable and the story lent itself in a way that made the audience relate to Murphy’s situation. And then there were things like Murphy’s signature gun spinning move while holstering his gun… things that let the audience know that it was still Alex Murphy inside the suit.

The new movie takes all that was great about the original and throws it right out of the window. I couldn’t find a single character I could empathise with. The movie seemed hollow and pointless. And what the hell happened to the PRIME DIRECTIVES that were the cornerstone of the original movie?

There is the usual over the top, use of technology. The movie just ploughs through it’s 2 hour excuse for screen time and several scenes just seem to be there for no apparent reason. Run, shoot, repeat.

Nothing much is expected of Joel Kinnaman who plays the role of Alex Murphy/Robocop. He doesn’t disappoint; nothing is delivered.

Gary Oldman, as the Dr Dennet Norton, brings the only semblance of acting to the movie but he is ultimately wasted.

Samuel Jackson, as Pat Novak, a media mogul, steps in every twenty minutes, with what sounds like American War propaganda, asking why in the world America can’t have robots patrolling their streets. He repeats this every time he is on-screen to the very last scene in the movie. I never understood the reason for the existence of his role. If it was an attempt at taking a jibe at the American media, I can’t say it worked out too well.

All in all, the movie was a predictable disappointment. I know, the review sounds like a rant. It is. Even if you look at the movie without comparing it with the original, it is a clear failure. And what were they thinking giving the reins to a nobody like José Padilha?

Hollywood seems to have finally run out of ideas. It seems to have for some time now but it is movies like this that make it obvious.

Do yourself a favour; go watch the original. You can thank me later.

The One Review Rating: 4/10

IMDB Link (Robocop – 1987)http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0093870

The Wolf of Wall Street

Movie review – The Wolf of Wall Street

The Wolf of Wall StreetIf I had to choose one word to describe The Wolf of Wall street, it would be irreverent. Martin Scorsese’s adaptation of the memoir by Jordan Belfort of the same same, is a no holds barred, unapologetic tour de force …. and may not be the movie for you if you are on self proclaimed moral high grounds.

Booze, sex and drugs is what runs this latest Scorsese outing. The movie explores the life of Jordan Belfort, a stock broker that founded a brokerage firm called Stratton Oakmont in the 90s, dealing in penny stocks and defrauding clients to the tune of over 100 million dollars. The movie shows his drive for making money, his ability to smooth talk his clients into buying worthless stocks … and his obsession with booze, drugs and women.

Yes, the movie has a hefty dose of nudity… probably the reason, non of the major studios touched it. Although that was probably good news for Scorsese; nothing much seems to have been lost at the editing table.

Di Caprio is impeccable in his role as Jordan Belfort, the drug addled, womanizer who took investors for a ride. His boyish charm and panache makes being a crook look good. Someone please give the man an oscar. God knows he deserves it.

However the same cannot be said for the the movie itself. This is Scorsese’s longest film yet, running at 3 hours, but it pales in comparison to his earlier works like GoodFellas and The Departed. Sure, the movie is enjoyable but is in no way award winning material. Editing is top notch but the movie is unnecessarily long; prolonged by booze parties and drug fests.

wolf of wall street 1

Jonah Hill is quite likeable in his role as Donnie Azoff, Belfort’s partner in crime. Nice to see him depart from his comfort zone to play a role like this. He so badly wanted to work with Scorsese, that he reportedly did the movie for a lowly sum of $60,000! In comparison, Di Caprio made a cool 10 mil.

Deterrents of the movie note that the movie glorifies Belfort and doesn’t do justice is pointing out the plight of the people whom he swindled. This is largely true. The movie is devoid of any sympathetic characters or for that matter any characters you can relate to. Scrorsese said that the movie is meant to be a precautionary tale but considering how the movie is made, this is rather hard to digest. Of course, it is the Director’s vision that finally comes through. Why do movies always have to be black or white?

You want real life? Watch documentaries.

The One Review Rating: 7/10

frozen

Movie Review – Frozen

frozenLike several Disney movies, Frozen begins in a land far far away in the Kingdom of Arendelle, where the fair king and queen lives with their daughters Elsa and Anna. But this seemingly normal family hides a dark secret; Elsa, the elder princess is cyrokinetic, or in plain english she possesses the ability to manipulate the cold and ice.

One day, while playing, she accidentally knocks down Anna after which she is asked never to use her powers ever again. In typical Disney fashion, the King and Queen are soon lost at sea leaving Anna and Elsa alone in the castle. Elsa, fearing that she wont be able to control her abilities, shuts herself out from the rest of the world and Anna rarely gets to see her.

Several years later, Elsa comes of her age and she is to to be handed the reins to the kingdom: its coronation day! The doors of the castle are open, people from neighbouring kingdoms come to pay their respects. Its all happy and gay (you know what I mean). Things don’t stay that way for long. In a fit of rage, Elsa displays her powers in front of all the guests.

Unable to control her powers, Elsa decides to leave, dashes off to a mountain, a song and dance later, she has built her own ice castle where she intends to live for the rest of her life. Oh and in her fit of rage, leaves Arendelle in eternal winter.

Anna, of course, won’t have this and sets out to bring her sister back. On the way she meets Kristoff, his reindeer Sven and the adorable snowman Olaf (which Elsa inadvertently brings to life). Can they convince Elsa to return? Will they save Arendelle? Will anyone find true love? Is there scheming and backstabbing? Is the reindeer funny? Will the snow man melt?

Unless you are 10 years old, and unless this is your first Disney movie, you already know the answer to the above questions. But Frozen is great fun to watch nevertheless. As with all Disney animated movies, this one is primarily for the kids but accompanying adults will their share of the fun. I was in a theatre where 70% of the audience were kids (I acted as if I was with the kid next to me).

All classic Disney movies are musicals (Beauty and the beast, The Jungle book, Aladdin…) and this one is too. To all adults in the theatre who were grumbling about why all the characters were singing – you obviously didn’t have a memorable childhood.

There were several instances where the story was on the danger of giving into cliches but rescues itself rather smartly. Kudos to the writers.

If you haven’t already watched, go with your kids now. If you don’t have any of your own, borrow one from your neighbour. The movie is great fun, with enough comedy in it to make the kids roar and the adults smile.

The One Review Rating: 8/10

Own it? Yes, if you have kids at home.

the hobbit the desolation of smaug

Movie review – The Hobbit: The desolation of Smaug

the hobbit the desolation of smaugMovie goers everywhere are thronging the theatres this weekend to watch The Hobbit. My office is giving away free passes. People who haven’t even watch the first movie are watching it. I am sure you will too. After all this is a Peter Jackson movie, the man who gave us The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

I have to be honest: I am disappointed with The Hobbit so far (and I don’t expect things to change in the final movie). There are bunch of reasons for this. I have read the books (The Hobbit and well as the Lord of the Rings). Neither of the movie trilogies are a 100% faithful to the books. And I am not complaining. It is next to impossible to recreate the magic that is the Lord of the Rings in its entirety. The audience would probably never survive the complexity and it would take more than a trilogy to get all the content it.

The Hobbit, on the other hand, is a rather small book. All of 280 pages. There is not enough content in it to make three movies. Peter Jackson was obviously under a lot of pressure to recreate the magic of the ‘Rings. Movies are a different medium altogether when compared to books with greatly different audiences. Most people who watched the Lord of the rings have never read any of Tolkien’s works and don’t necessarily understand (or care) what a masterpiece the Lord of the Rings is. They came for the movie magic, the suspension of disbelief, the fantasy… the epic battles. They don’t care that Tolkien created a whole new language and script just for the book. They want to come to the movies and be blown away.

The Hobbit was destined to be a three movie stretch because the audience wanted it and not because Jackson, or for that matter Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, believed in it.

To do this, the screenplay had to depart from the book in several instances. One of the major ones is the plot line concerning Azog, the white Orc that Thorin is hell bent on destroying: he doesn’t exist in the book. Legolas doesn’t make an appearance either. No Tauriel (so it goes without saying that there is no hint of romance between her and Kili). Most importantly, there is no mention of Sauron or the coming of darkness in the The Hobbit. So you can see; if you remove these plot lines the movies at best can be stretched to two.

This wouldn’t have been a problem if it didn’t strain the overall plot; but it does. A whole bunch of scenes look completely unnecessary and tacked on. (The Kili – Tauriel romance is cheesy as hell). The screenplay tries very hard to make the Hobbit look like a prequel to the Lord of the Rings when it clearly isn’t. The only thing in the Hobbit that holds any relevance to The ‘Rings is Bilbo and the finding of the Ring.

The acting isn’t a great priority as the director tries to drown you in seemingly endless orc attacks and irrelevant plot lines (oh that cheesy romance…). The action is remnant of the ‘Rings. Kill Orc. Rinse and repeat.

The only thing I found vaguely appealing were the scenes with Bilbo and Smaug.

The Hobbit isn’t the Lord of the Rings. It needlessly tries to be and fails. The only reason to watch this movie is if you watched the first one and want to know how it ends.

The final movie, There and back again will undoubtedly give us some sort of (non existent) epic battle which might serve to be the only redeeming quality of the trilogy.

The One Review Rating: 6/10

Own it? No

IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1170358/

captain phillips

Movie Review – Captain Phillips

captain phillipsOk this review is late. Of the many fine qualities I possess, procrastination is one of my finest.

Anyhooo…. better late than never eh?

Paul Greengrass (Bourne Supremacy, United 93) brings us the true story of  the hijacking of a US cargo ship, The Maersk Alabama, and the events that let to its captain being held hostage and subsequently rescued.

Oh please, you knew there would be spoilers in this review.

The movie revolves around the captain of the cargo vessel, Richard Phillips, played by the Tom Hanks and the hostage situation after his ship is boarded by 4 Somali pirates. Let me tell you outright, the movie is top notch. I couldn’t find much to fault the movie given its premise. The acting is top notch. Direction is on the spot and editing is fantastic.

Hanks is perfect for the role of the Captain, a docile but smart man who is able to hold his wits in the light of rapidly escalating events. He is a family man and no hero and he knows it. The audience can completely relate to his predicament and the way he handles the situation. He is just an ordinary guy with an ordinary job. (Be the captain of a cargo ship, see the world they said, easy peasy they said)

But for me the real star of the movie is Barkhad Abdi, the man who plays the role of the leader of the pirate group. He has no previous acting experience and get this, he was working as a Chauffeur when he landed the role. No real actor could have done what he did to the role. His is so believable the Somali pirate leader, a man who believes that he can take over a 17 tonne cargo ship with 4 men on a dinky boat and negotiate its return for 10 million bucks.

The hijacking soon takes a different turn as the pirates escape on a lifeboat with the captain as their hostage. Things are certainly not going according to plan for these guys. The new plan is to negotiate the return of the captain for , yes, 10 million. Of course, by now the American military apparatus is set into motion and they set to do what they do best: intimidate and destroy. Aircraft carriers, battle ships, navy seals… the whole shebang, just to get one man back home to his family. I had the goosebumps. Hey, I am not ashamed to admit it; I am a sucker for the American show of military power in movies (Michel Bay anyone?).

The movie manages to maintain the tension through out the 2 hours without any cheap thrills. This is a movie about two men: one who just wants to get back home to his family and one who has something to prove to his people back home… and is willing to go to great lengths to do it.

Bonus: The final scene in the ship’s infirmary is a great demonstration of what a great actor Tom Hanks is.

Great movie. Must watch. The theatre was full even after two weeks.

The One Review Rating: 8/10

Own it? I am undecided on this. The movie doesn’t have much of a repeat viewing value but the movie is really great so you wont regret it even if you buy it.

IMDB Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1535109/