I was channel surfing on a boring day, not sure what I wanted to watch, my eyes fell on “Nobody”. There was Bob Odenkirk, probably lying on the ground, and many fists landing on his contorted face. Images of Saul Goodman from “Better Call Saul” & “Breaking Bad”, who usually got roughed up or picked up by gang members, started popping out of my memory. I had never seen Bob in a movie before, so I felt, this was as good a time as any, to watch a full fledged movie of Bob Odenkirk.
It has been 20 years since I graduated from high school. We wanted to have a reunion of few close buddies who are still in touch. The last such reunion we had was in 2019, when a pal from Canada and another from Australia were visiting India during the year-end holiday. Of course, soon Corona virus hit us and we all were trapped in our homes.
I had read couple of accounts in newspaper of how stowaways used to cling onto the wheels of the airplane or hide someplace in the cargo containers of ships, and sometimes in toilets; just to escape from whatever they have been facing. It was never for thrill of it, but always for a specific need like illegal emigration to better pastures.
“WE ARE IN THE ENDGAME NOW”
That is where we are at. The culmination of an initiative that started a decade ago, with a certain Nick Fury’s invitation to the Iron Man regarding bringing together a group of remarkable men (and women) to fight the battles mere mortals could not.
22 movies later, ten years down the line, we have come to an end to what was one of the most ambitious of cinematic projects undertaken in history. And Marvel studios have managed to wrap it up finally with the big finale – Avengers Endgame.
It has also been the phase in cinema where superheroes of all sizes and shapes took over the motion picture scene. Add the DC ones, and the already existing X-Men franchise, and it looked like the genre already hit the saturation point. But director Russo brothers had other ideas.
With Avengers Infinity War, the Russos went right ahead and did the unthinkable by getting the villain emerge victorious and single-handedly give a whole bunch of heroes a super villain ‘ass whooping’. So much that even though fans may have felt cheated by the deaths of many of their loved characters, they know that it must be set right in the sequel by all means using “whatever it takes!”.
Thus, we have fans from across the globe, eagerly counting down the days to the big finale to see how the mighty heroes of earth avenge the fallen and give it finally back to Thanos.
Though what follows are not mighty spoilers, they still are in the category of “might-be spoilers” . So go ahead at your own risks…
WE LOST, ALL OF US. WE LOST FRIENDS. WE LOST FAMILY. WE LOST PART OF OURSELVES. THIS IS THE FIGHT OF OUR LIVES
Many of us would have expected a movie about straight out revenge. Many fans would be looking forward to it. Honestly speaking, so did I.
But Endgame is not exactly the sequel to Infinity War in that sense. The Russo Brothers again do things differently and instead goes for the head this time, that is the broader picture. Rather than just resetting the events of Infinity War, the directors wants to make the movie work as a culmination of the Marvel era. They want viewers to embark on that journey that started with Iron Man and that brought us right to this point in time.
As the movie starts off with our fallen heroes looking for revenge, the portions we have so far seen in the trailers are all wrapped up in exactly first five minutes of the movie. And the said revenge also comes like a snap!
But what follows is a cathartic view on everything life has thrown at us. It instead is contend trying to be an essay on loss, pain, and moving on in life. Russo forces the attention away from all things Thanos and instead gets us reflecting on how one copes with the loss of their loved ones and family.
The movie then furthers this by taking us down memory lane and with nostalgia, reminding us of small moments that we all would want to revisit – parents, lovers, kids, in short the bonds we have created for ourselves.
But it is not all heavy. The fact that this is after all a ‘tentpole blockbuster event’ forbids the Russo brothers from going all out with the pain. Instead they have to settle in for the demands of the blockbuster audience, which is “with great pathos, come great goofiness” . So that is exactly what kicks in with the events that happens five years later, when Scott Lang aka Antman is freed back into the real world from his quantum realm hiatus, thanks to a …er, rodent!
With Scott landing at the front door, Cap America and Black Widow sees that there is a small window by which they could set it all right, so they go seeking the services of the two big brains of the Marvel world – Tony Stark and Bruce Banner.
“NOTHING GOES OVER MY HEAD. MY REFLEXES ARE TOO FAST, I WOULD CATCH IT”
Drax certainly may see it like that. But as viewers, it isn’t the case.
You know it is not going to be easy writing things, especially when you throw in elements of quantum realms and time travel and a whole lot of that into your narration. You are literally creating a loop hole instead of a wormhole, thus enabling more questions than answers that you could probably provide.
The WHYs and HOWs just would not add up the more you think of how the events are lined up once the initial rush is over. Agreed this whole thing of alternate timelines is a darn good excuse, but not all movies successfully pulls it off. And Endgame exactly does not come off all unscathed either. So get ready to be scratching your heads.
The middle portions also have a lot of referencing to previous movies and events of the Marvel cinematic universe. So for the folks who thought they could skip some of the origin movies, they may seem a little caught out at times trying to figure the bigger pictures as a whole lot of characters do come back in various ways.
I CAN DO THIS ALL DAY….
…or probably not. Let’s face it. Hats off to the various actors who has been repeatedly sticking to their characters and contributing to the marvel cinematic universe. Even if it is in cameos here and there , for they are really giving it for the fans and continuity.
This time the focus is on the original Avengers and after all these years of doing this costume drama, many of them will hang up their boots while many will ‘stream’ away in other directions. Obviously, it is certain they cannot be doing it all day. So we may have to part temporarily or forever with some of the actors from this decade long Marvel-family as we enter into a new phase.
The focus again is on the core Avengers team. Robert Downey Jr , Chris Evans, Scarlett, Ruffalo, Renner all wonderfully reprises their role and gives it emotional heft. Joining them also with significant inputs are Cheadle, Paul Rudd and the Cooper voiced Rocket. But the movie is really taken forward by the Karen Gillan’s Nebula character.
But if you want to fans of the rest of the actors from the MCU, please be ready to see very little of them in this version.
Due credit also has to be given to the FX team, for one thing they have really mastered by the Endgame is this digital age-altering technique. The team at Lola FX, are some fine digital plastic surgeons and perfected this art in altering the character’s age and physical appearance so perfectly that we never know what surprise Marvel will throw at us with the technology at hand. I mean, compare this with WB’s struggle to get a ‘Justice League’ mustache right!
…I AM ALWAYS ANGRY
Obviously, the issue with so many heroes is that filmmakers may not exactly get to please all the fans alike. Personally, I have felt that this whole thing is a lot biased towards Stark, but Joss Whedon did surprise me with the original AVENGERS by being able to give the right balance to all the original Avenger characters. Russo brothers too have excelled in it especially in Infinity War by ensuring that all the names get their moment, even while giving Thanos a whole lot ‘space’ to make an impression.
But personally, felt that was not the case with the Endgame though. Agreed Thor took a lighter turn with Ragnarok, but here they just wrote him as a big ‘joke’. Wished the writers did not make a man battling his depression to be nothing but a mere paunching bag for some laughs. The sight and gag did get tiring a few beers down. So eventually they make Captain America do all the heavy lifting this time around.
I get how Paul Rudd effortlessly works for the humor parts given Lang’s nature. But what really pisses me off is the way they have progressed Hulk’s character over the years. From being the ‘star’ of the original Avengers movie, now they have Ruffalo-fied the character so much that there is no Angry hulk anymore. Russo Brothers have banished the ‘Smash Hulk’ that we love, and we are deprived of the much touted rematch that Hulkfans had hoped for. From Stark’s big boast line ‘We have a Hulk’ in the original, things have really gone down south for the big green man.
Another character that just does not work for me is Captain Marvel. Larson did seem a little off in the original movie as well, and here too given her shockingly limited runtime, comes off like an arrogant alien ill-fit to the whole Avengers thing. Probably, it was as a result of having this in production before the actual “Captain Marvel” movie.
Thanos that was a big deal last time around seem disinterested in this version and approaches it more like a sitting duck. Thanos with no stone, is certainly not in the zone! That was a bummer.
Again, like I said, these are some personal beefs. But hey, like I said, fans have always reasons to stay angry. Cannot please ‘em all!
Yes, it works better the second time when our expectations do not play havoc with what we have eventually got. It is a rather satisfying and cathartic end as opposed to the big bang one which is rather reserved for just the last forty minutes or so. So, do not expect to see major action set pieces, as this one offers very little in terms of memorable action sequences like the Thor at Wakanda scene. The grouping of all the women characters seemed organic the last time around, but here it stuck out sorely.
Bottom line, the Russo Brothers have done some astounding work. Though I am not on board with all the choices, they have surely given it all to Marvel movies. Be it their astounding work on Winter Soldier, the creative flourishes seen in CIVIL WAR, or the ambitious choices they went with INFINITY WAR, it all settles down rather well with ENDGAME.
Russos with screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely shows their love for all things Marvel and therefore the running time is the last thing one would complain of. In fact, one would only be left wanting more. The writing is effective but not brilliant enough to outshine the magic created by several of the earlier Marvel movies. But loop holes aside, it was worth a ride, and looking forward to what the new phase has in store for us.
And let’s be honest. This is comic geek’s wildest dreams that have come together in Endgame. Who would have thought about a decade ago. This is a fitting thank you note to the fans across the globe.
It has indeed been a Marvel-ous so far.
Primary Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner, Scarlett Johansson, Brie Larson, Karen Gillian, Paul Rudd , Don Cheadle , Josh Brolin
Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo
Origin stories are special. It is indeed marvelous to watch the journey of a superhero from a time they were a total ‘zero’. The discovery of one’s true potential, the battle of their personal demons, all this and more are all tropes that are now, frankly, done to death. And yet every time a new hero makes it to the big screen, they find a way to rise above the expectations and breathe a new life not just into the character but to the superhero genre itself.
So there was ample reason for one to be excited about a Captain Marvel project. Firstly, it was the first of a female lead offering from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, something that took them like twenty movies or so to achieve. And making it more complicated is the fact that it is one of the most powerful character of the Marvel Universe and had to rope in in order to be the ‘key’ element in the battle of Avengers against the might of Thanos. So Cap Marvel needed the curtain raiser before the main event.
But with greater the powers, greater the challenge of hitting it out of the park. And unfortunately, that is where even the mighty Captain Marvel stumble upon.
Our hero (Brie Larson) is introduced to us as a Kree soldier Vers. She is an elite member of the Kree force, who has to be constantly reminder her team leader Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) on how necessary it is to keep her powers under check and in control.
However what is also keeping her up are the haunted images of a past that she quite cannot remember.
The answers do come to her in due time when on one of their recent missions, ambushed by the rival Skrull beings, she has to crash land onto Earth. It is here on the hunt for these shape-shifting Skrulls that she encounters the SHIELD agents Nic Fury and Coulson and with their help, she tries to solve the puzzle of her past.
On home planet, which she discovers Earth was to her, she also discovers forgotten relationships, fears and most importantly, forgotten powers!
Though many directors have successfully made the smooth transition from modest budgeted productions to the big tent-pole dazzles of a Marvel production, this jump is rather awkwardly handled by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck.
The creativity in the action scenes were obviously lacking. The plot really only finds its footing once things jump to planet earth, from whereon things ease down to a more familiar 90s buddy comedy setting with all the nostalgia factors thrown in from Blockbuster Video, Radioshack to dial up modems to hit 90’s tunes. By the time the makers get a groove of it all, we are already way into the third act.
It is a rather ordinary retelling of the origin story, that is narrated and assembled in a manner that leaves one emotionally disconnected. Blame it on the way the character is written or on the one-note performance from Brie Larson, where all the bright colours of the suit cannot hide from all the obvious “effort” that she is putting into carrying this role.
It could have been the tale where we get to know how an earthling Carol Danvers goes onto become the Star Lord , Guardians of the Galaxy , Miss Marvel …er Captain Marvel. (Yes, there is a whole lot controversy on that name and the history of DC Captain Marvel aka SHAZAM that is enough fodder for another article.)
And for whatever this origin story is about, the screenplay does not reveal much of the human that Carol Danvers was. We get a slight glimpse into her past, in bits and pieces – in flashes where she is reminded that she is just a weakling and cannot exactly compete with the boys. In fact, the best moment of the film was the inter-cut scene where they capture Danver in various ages of her life, stand up after the fall. As much as it was a powerful moment, the narrative exactly does not earn it. Written as a role model for women empowerment, the makers certainly spare no opportunity to drive the point home.
It is also important to note that Captain Marvel does not purely serve as the origin story for the Kree soldier alone. It also serves us the origin story for the whole ‘Avengers’ initiative as we see Nicholas Fury’s first tryst with unexplained superpowers from a space and time beyond. Of course, little did he know back then that he was only ‘scratching’ the surface.
Much of the joy from this film comes from the supporting actors. Be it Fury (a digitalized younger looking Samuel Jackson) or by the Skrull leader Talos (Medelsohn) , or Danver’s best buddy Maria (Lynch) or the young daughter of hers. And then there is Goose, the feline show stealer. It is the big names like Annette Benning and Jude Law who failed to dazzle in their respective roles.
As far as female superhero goes, it is hardly the entertainer that Wonder Woman was. It hardly has the kind of arc that the Amazon princess had in that DC trailblazer.The silver lining is that we still get a character that makes one excited for the forthcoming Avengers: End Game as we already can see how much of a powerhouse that Captain Marvel can become in deciding the final outcome.
Captain Marvel does announce the power-shift in a big way and probably lays platform for more diverse voices when the decisions are made out. And cheer we will. Just wish it wasn’t this bland a character when all the recent origin stories like Black Panther, WonderWoman and Aquaman has managed to make a solid splash into the over crowded comic hero lineup. In comparison, this Cap story turns out to be rather ‘meh’ affair.
For a hero with a motto of ‘Higher, Further, Faster’ , this one falls considerably short on all counts.
Rating : 2.5 / 5
Cast: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Jude Law, Annette Bening, Lee Pace, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Hounsou, Gemma Chan and Clark Gregg
directed by Anna Roden – Ryan Fleck
Studio : Marvel Studios / Walt Disney Pictures
Director: Ari Aster
Rating: ***Continue reading “Hereditary Movie Review (2018): Great Technique, Yet Somewhat Dissatisfactory”
Cast: Chris Pratt,Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall, James Cromwell, Toby Jones, Jeff Goldblum, BD Wong and Isabelle Sermon
Directed by J A Bayona
The park is gone! Now it is time to take your toys and play indoors!
That is exactly what the makers of Jurassic World seems to have done this time around., I kid you not!
With the park long abandoned, the writers have come up with the ridiculous idea to take the mighty prehistoric creatures and put them in a claustrophobic setting of a mansion to generate the thrills. Just an indication of how low the franchise has fallen with the latest installment, JURASSIC WORLD: Fallen Kingdom.
Evidently gone is the magic that one had with the original Jurassic Park movie twenty-five years ago, when Steven Spielberg gave us a big screen experience like no other. But now in this age of visual technology and CGI advancements, watching these beasts is certainly not all that bewildering as it once used to be. And so, the studio has now started treating this more on the lines of a horror series, plugging in the scares while the Universal studios laugh their way to the bank.
Not that it does not work. They successfully employed the trick with the reboot JURASSIC WORLD three years ago by creating a killing machine like the Indominus Rex and letting it loose in the theme park. Eventually the movie did prove everyone wrong and went on to be a massive global success that has now led us to this sequel. But unfortunately, this time the studio seems to have no idea where to take this franchise and instead it pops out a summer event movie that is nothing but a mere money-grab exercise.
Fallen Kingdom is watchable. But what worries is the obvious dearth of anything innovative or fresh. They do hint at a new ‘Planet of the Apes’ like direction right at the end buried under the mumbo-jumbo of the dangers of ‘Playing God’ voiced by good ol’ Jeff Goldblum, but the entire movie preceding is clearly not on the same page.
Movie is set three years after the events of Jurassic World and we find the famed Isla Nublar is facing a serious disaster threat with the active volcano on the island threatening to turn the entire island and its inhabitants to ashes. And outside, the world is debating whether the lab generated dinosaurs deserves to live. Despite the fights and protests of certain groups and activists, the authorities decide not to do anything about it.
At this juncture, former park manager and now dino activist, Claire (Howard) is called in by Benjamin Lockwood to his estate. Lockwood was John Hammond’s ex partner and is now interested in giving these creatures a new home. The operations are headed by Eli Mills who has formed a rescue team of mercenaries to assist Claire to get a select set of these dinosaurs. They are also very particular of getting Blue, the last living Velociraptor and Claire knows that is only possible with the aid of Owen Grady, the Velociraptor researcher who literally raised Blue.
It does not take much to convince Owen and before you know it the team is back on the island, however stupid they idea may seem.
Once on the island, and with Blue tracked down, the tables turn and Claire and Owen realize that it was a trap all along and the team was only capturing these dinosaurs to take it back to the Lockwood estate where Mills have already arranged to sell them at a black market auction.
Claire and Owen somehow do manage to escape from the island before it meets its ultimate doom. But now they must stop Mills from carrying out their plan, especially a new biological creation, the Indo-Raptor, a much more ferocious killing machine designed with the mix of the Velociraptor and the Indominus Rex, with ‘Blue’ being the key to breed a whole new gen of these violent beings.
Much of the first half goes in the silly excuse of getting our lead cast onto the island and then have them escape from it. They must fight through mercenaries, dinosaurs, molten lava and extremely lazy writing to literally stay afloat. Things only kick into gear with the appearance of the new baddie on the block, the IndoRaptor offering some genuine thrills as we watch the imprudent advanced species scamper for cover.
The real tragedy of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is how the CGI creatures have more personality and character than the live ones. The star of the piece is Blue the velociraptor who yet again comes to save the day and the franchise. The T-Rex still makes the obligatory appearance and makes a kill or two while the the highly intelligent IndoRaptor is a serious enough threat. Even the most affecting moment in the film is the long shot featuring a Brachiosaurus that is about to meet its end on the island.
But when it comes to the live actors, there is nothing worth highlighting. Bryce Howard’s character does get that upgrade from the ‘damsel-in-heels’. But while Bryce have lost the controversial footwear from the earlier one, Pratt too seem to have lost all the charm and goofiness he had last time around. And two movies down, and still we see zero chemistry between the pair. At least nowhere close to what Pratt shares with his velociraptor. The new characters (Daniella Pineda, Justice Smith) also really do not bring anything memorable to the mix.
Director J.A. Bayona draws from his previous works like The Impossible and A Monster Calls. Unfortunately, while the entire first half is preposterously staged, he really comes to his own only in the second half when he gets to display his love for an atmospheric horror flick. However, one wishes the Spanish director brought more of it much earlier to the screenplay.
Visually the beasts have never looked better, but it is the writing or lack of it that is the downer. There is a need for the franchise to evolve, but that for now is certainly not happening.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom plays out just as one feared. All business and no heart. But it is no rocket science, the franchise will still live on…. irrespective of how lifeless these individual movies may prove to be!
Written and Directed by: Yorgos Lanthimos (aka “the fucked up mad creator”)
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Colin FarrellContinue reading “The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017) Movie Review: Twisted genius, or perverted gratification?”
Frances McDormand’s angry, grieving mother in McDonagh’s darkly comic, hard-hitting melodrama (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) was such a tour-de-force of a performance that I was sure she would walk away with most of the awards this year. But then I got around watching director Greta Gerwig’s solo-debut Lady Bird and I wasn’t so sure anymore.Continue reading “Lady Bird Movie Review: Moving, bitter-sweet coming of age drama”