Krishna and His Leela movie review: Love me Two!

Telugu, 2020

Cast:  Sidhu Jonnalegadda, Shradda Srinath, Shalini Vadnikatti, Seerat Kapoor , Jhansi and Sampath Raj

Directed by Ravikanth Perepu

Music by Sricharan Pakala

Streaming now on Netflix

 

Krishna and his Leela, the latest Telugu OTT offering, presented by Rana Daggubati,  is a breezy rom com that is a essentially an update on the age-old ‘one guy-two women’ staple . Though there is certainly no reinventing of the wheel here, director Ravikanth Perepu does put in a neat little job of giving some relatability and rootedness to the whole tricky subject.

Sidhu Jonnalegadda, who is also a co-writer on the film, is introduced in one of those typical cinematic ‘jilted lover boy’ fashions – with the trademark unshaven beard, pondering over life in some picturesque corners of the country. And knowing Telugu cinema, we may easily write offthe rest of the film as one suffering from the Arjun Reddy hangover. But breaking the fourth wall, Sidhu’s character Krishna assures us this could be lighter by asking us not to laugh at his emotional tales. And we pretty get the mood of the film from thereon.

Krishna does not waste time and gets to the heartbreak instantly. We are immediately told how his girlfriend Satya dumps him when she believes the relationship is not going anywhere. The breakup leaves Krishna completely broken, spending the rest of the days crying and sobbing away. It takes a few good time before he decides he is over all these girls and relationship dramas.

But Krishna cannot be kept away from his Leelas for long, and it is no surprise when he ends up immediately falling head over heels over a junior he meets at college, Radha.

As Radha claims, Krishna does not tick off any of her boyfriend material lists. But she still ends up liking the guy and Krishna would believe everything is finally smooth sailing in his love life.  However then comes the hurdle, with a job offering in Bangalore. Having to move out from Vizag, he assures an unsure Radha that they will get this long-distance working.

But things take an interesting turn when in Bangalore, where he runs into his ex-girlfriend Satya. If that is not spice enough, add an attractive roommate (Seerat Kapoor) to the mix. And you know you are getting a perfect recipe for trouble in Sidhu’s paradise.  The rest of the film has Sidhu trying to figure out the Dos and Donts of relationships. The only question is will it be too late by the time he does the figuring out.

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The biggest strength of the movie undoubtedly lies in its restrained writing. At several instances, there is an opportunity to go too melodramatic or score some each cheap laughs, except for a few initial portions involving Viva Harsha. But the writing holds back and avoids falling into the usual easy trappings of Telegu commercial cinema. The characters are certainly well written, especially the women and therefore keeps the proceedings refreshingly relatable and real.

Performances also immensely helps here. After all, it is vital that the audience needs to develop a rooting interest in the characters for this set up to work. And to the credit of the writing team and the trio of Sidhu, Shradda and Shalini, the manage to nail that factor.Even the fourth wall breaking which may seem gimmicky at first, works well in opening  frank one way conversation between the audience and the main character.

Lead man Sidhu masterfully steers his complicated character convincingly through the whole messy deal. Shradda as usual impresses effortlessly, while Shalini Vadnikatti though good, finds herself a little short when it comes to the emotionally heavy sequences.  Seerat Kapoor chips in just fine with Rukhsar, a very interestingly written character that in my opinion, deserved a little more space and voice in the screenplay. Sampath and Jhansi plays the roles of Sidhu’s parents in graceful, convincing manner, with a delicately written scene showing their dynamics in a mature, no-frills manner. It was also an appreciable gesture of having the dubbing artists names alongside the actresses in the title credits.

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The movie just about loses steam even with its mere 120-minute mark as the screenplay goes back and forth between the Leelas of this Krishna’s life, constantly shuffling between Vizag and Bangalore with a little Coorg detour. But Ravikanth keeps things light and constantly moving. And though the performance manages to sell the lead character’s predicament, the final speech disappointingly falls flat sticking out like a weak excuse. And also time writers realise that this lazy act of transforming their characters into overnight authors is getting a little too stale.

But these are minor quibbles in what is essentially a welcome addition to an otherwise ‘done-to-death’ romcom formula. Refreshing and sure-footed, it is worth spending a couple of hours checking out Krishna and his Leela, for an easy OTT watch.

– Joxily John

Gully Boy A Critical Appreciation: Bollywood Ka Time Aayega

Directed by: Zoya Akhtar; Starring: Ranveer Singh, Alia Bhatt, Kalki Koechlin, Amruta Subhash

It is always heartening when we get live examples of how the times and tastes are changing for mainstream Bollywood. Exemplifying the same is Gully Boy, Zoya Akhtar’s (member of this brave new world) best work till date. Bollywood has often been blamed for not representing many sections of society. In this regard, Kudos to Zoya Akhtar for spotting the budding real-life talent of 2 hip-hop artists who rose from very humble backgrounds and giving them a voice into the mainstream. It is not surprising that India with such rich diversity and people would be brimming with stories, and it is the onus of the filmmakers to present such stories in the mainstream rather than just shoving them under the drawer or limiting them to arthouse cinema.Continue reading “Gully Boy A Critical Appreciation: Bollywood Ka Time Aayega”

Kumbalangi Nights Movie Review: Man in the Mirror!

An unfinished house. That is the image we get as the movie begins and that image is enough to put across to the viewers the stories of the pain and struggle of the people within.

In this case it is the house of the late Napolean’s four sons, situated in a small village in Ernakulam.  We are first introduced to the youngest of the lot, Frankie (Mathew Thomas) who makes it clear about how ashamed he feels about his house that he has to lie in order to keep his classmates from visiting his place. In his words, ‘the worst house of the entire Panchayat!’

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The oldest of this rather dysfunctional household is Saji (Soubin Shahir) who is content freewheeling on the hard earned money of a Tamilian he once had helped. Then you have the mute one,  Bonny (Srinath Bhasi),  who stays away from the squabbles of the house and would rather spend the time with his close bunch of friends. And the last of the lot is Bobby, played by Shane Nigam, who is a total loafer who cannot put the effort into anything. He runs away from anything that is described as a ‘job’. Even when asked if he is into drugs, his reply is ‘those things make you think. We cannot do all hat. We are free-birds’.

Simultaneously, we also get a peek into yet another household- that of Baby (Anna Ben) who works as a tourist guide at one of the nearby resorts. Her sister (Grace) has just married and we are introduced to her husband- Shammi (a brilliant Fahadh Fasil) who in his introductory shot itself looks to the mirror, setting his bold black moustache and announcing to himself, ‘Raymond- the complete man!’.

Though we do not get to know much of his past, we can sense the misogynistic and conservative upbringing of his. Even before he is introduced, there is his brother who gets visibly offended on being offered a lift on a bike, rode by a woman. With his father in law having passed away, Shammi believes he has a firm role to play as the ‘man of the house’. Truth be told, he believes he is the rightful hero of his tale. ‘Shammi, hero aada, hero’ utters Fahadh in one of the best lines from the film.

And in most cases, he would have been. But this time, Shammi is not the hero.

For the heroes of the stories are the women that walk into the lives of these men. They find a good human being even in the most laggard of these men. They see the beauty even in the most incomplete and unkempt of places. They bring hope to even those who seemingly have lost all of it. They also bring forth courage at situations where it really is called for. They turn out to be the true knights of this Kumbalangi village.

Hats off once again to Shyam Pushkaran. The writer has been giving us gems after another and here is yet another spectacular example of what magic even simplistic of writings can create on celluloid. Placing realistic characters in equally relatable settings, dipped with the local milieu turns to a feast for the viewers. And they are not the perfectly white and black characters that we used to. The characters are as flawed as you and me.

Even the villain of this enterprise, Shammi is not entirely wrong. He has a point when he questions the qualifications that the wayward Bobby possess to marry his sister in law. He is on point when he states that the chap cannot even afford to pay for his own shave at the barbershop. In another movie, he very well might have been the hero. Here we are asked to laugh at the moustache twirling man, rooted in misogyny and patriarchal conservatism.

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Director Madhu C Narayanan could not have asked for a better debut. Every scene and every character come alive, even the short scene that the sons share with the mother. Joining hand in hand with the writer and the cinematographer Shyju Khalid, they bring such warmth and feel good factor to the proceedings. Commendable is how none of this ever seem forced into the narrative but flows in with a natural ease.

Speaking of flowing in, the same can be said about the songs in the movie. Sushin Shyam’s music blends in well with the setting and never feels out of place. Even when an English track forms part of the it. The theme music is something that will stick to you head much after the movie.

And the performances. How captivating are they?  Shane Nigam is turning into a remarkable lead man who certainly have the charms and the acting chops. Sreenath Bhasi plays with limitations but makes his presence felt. Debutant Anna Ben was dazzling from the word go and looked exceptionally confident and impressive for a newcomer. Other performers like  Mathew, Jasmine Metevier and Grace Antony also makes their presence felt. Even the actors who play Bobby and Baby’s friends make a lasting impression. Dileesh Pothan , also one of the producers of the movie, chips in a cameo appearance.

Fahadh Fasil has repeatedly been challenging himself and he seem to not surprise himself and the audience with his choice of roles and how he aces them. This time, as a villain, he absolutely steals the frames whenever he appears with his eccentric mannerisms, and at times, even with merely his looks. One runs out of adjectives with each passing performance of his.

And last but not the least, Soubin Shahir. From a comedian, he made leaps as a lead man in last year’s runaway success story Sudani From Nigeria.  But with this one, he has shown us what a amazing actor he is. He owned the role of Saji completely. Be it when he laughs in joy on Bobby calling him ‘chetta (Brother), or when in his drunk scene with Ramesh Thilak and eventual reaction to the bitter truth, or the scene where he breaks down in front of the doctor. Such a damn fine performance capturing all the complexities of the character.

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This year is merely a month and a few days old, and we already have a gem of a film that would feature in the year end top lists (…that is if not the best). Rarely do we have movies approached with such simplicity, sincerity and comes out with such beautiful results. But films from Kerala are managing to hit that sweet spot with ease and finesse. The Napolean brothers will find a place a heart in all moviegoers. And so will Fahadh’s Shammi , one that will be etched in our memories for years to come.

So think no further, do check out this house in the wastelands of Kumbalangi. One where exists no boundaries of caste, color, religion or nation. It shows that even the most incomplete of homes can feel complete when it is drenched in love, acceptance and brotherhood. An absolute must-watch!

Rating:  4

 

KUMBALANGA NIGHTS (Malayalam, 2019)

cast:  Soubin Shahir, Shane Nigam, Sreenath Bhasi, Anna Ben, Mathew Thomas, Grace Antony and Fahadh Faasil

Directed by Madhu C Narayanan

Written by Shyam Pushkaran

Produced by Fahadh Fasil and Friends/ Working Class Hero

MANIKARNIKA Review: where Kangana saves the Queen!

From all those history lessons back from school, there was one powerful imagery that stuck in most of our heads – that is of a woman warrior fighting an uphill battle against the British empire with a child strapped to her back. You may know or not bother to remember anything or everything around the event, but that imagery had always been powerful. Thus in these times of biopics and real-life events making it to the big screen, it was a no-brainer to get a movie based on India’s real life ‘wonder woman’ the Jhansi Ki Rani, Laxmibai out there. The journey wasn’t easy but certainly it had been headline making. Post all the controversies and plot-twists, the producers have finally managed to release their ambitious biopic MANIKARNIKA: THE QUEEN OF JHANSI.

In terms of casting, there isn’t a better candidate for the role of the brave, fierce queen in the Bollywood industry than Kangana Ranaut herself. Not because the other big names don’t fit the bill, but Kangana has been preparing for this role for some time offscreen. She has stood out as this lone fighter against the Bollywood bigwigs with her outspoken and candid persona, thereby making her fit the role like a glove. So, when she is out there playing a woman defying stereotypes and taking on social norms and traditions single handedly, we ask no further questions. She instantly sells the character of Manikarnika aka Queen Laxmibai.

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The movie starts off with the oh-so-familiar Bachchan Saab’s booming voice talking about how the evil East India company has been taking control of the Princely states. At this point, you are thinking two things – are you headed for an epic like Lagaan or a dud like the Thugs of Hindostan?

Soon we are introduced the girl child who is predicted for ‘greatness’. And on the Manikarnika Ghats, she is named ….no prizes for guessing.

Cut to a grown-up young woman who, in the initial few reels itself is established to be a skilled archer, expert at sword combat, an animal lover, educated and a voracious reader. Impressed by her skills and bravery, an alliance is sought from the Jhansi kingdom and Manikarnika agrees. That is after we are also established another important aspect- she is a desh bhakt.  A patriotic song is sung to her lest she forget.

Now Jhansi is facing a serious threat from the British Company who is out to annex the kingdom under the ‘Doctrine of Lapse’ policy and therefore it is essential to avert it by having an heir to the throne. The kingdom is hoping they have found the right bride in Manikarnika (who is now rechristened Queen Lakshm) for their king (played by Jisshu Sengupta).  However, Manikarnika turns out to be a little too ‘wild’ for the throne. When the Queen mother is hoping her to take to the domestic ways of the palace, Queen Laxmi is keener on taming wild horses and the Brits.

Though history shows that the Queen had been on friendly terms with the British for most of her reign, what is the point of a Bollywood production if there is no ‘masala’ added?  So we make way for some seeti-maar scene that pits Queen Laxmibai with the British.  For starters, the Queen is in no mood to bow down to anyone. This gets the English officers furious.

Then she becomes the protector of cattle, by gatecrashing the Brits party and ensuring they get to enjoy no steak. The English officers are livid.

And then she ends up making the officers to turn up to work on a Sunday. By now the English officers are enraged.  At this point, them baying for her blood is understandable.

In between all this getting on every one’s nerves, the free spirited queen also finds time to bear a child to the throne. However, tragedy strikes, and now the Queen is forced to step up and protect the throne and keep the enemies at bay.

What follows is in lines with the historical events, so not sure whether revealing more about the plot would essentially be considered a ‘spoiler’. The 1857 mutiny strikes and the rest of the second half has the Queen taking the fight to the colonizers.

It eventually closes up with the words of Officer Huge Rose that remarked Queen Laxmibai as a ‘a man among mutineers; the dangerous of all rebel leaders’

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I am not sure if it due to the change in the director’s seat or if it was originally scripted in this way, but one cannot deny the confused bi-polar nature of the screenplay.

On one hand, it tries to become this voice for ‘woman empowerment’. Only to have it ruined with a facepalm moment later when the King reveals the reason why he wears bangles in his hand.  In one of the big moments mentioned above, the Queen boldly makes her stand clear that she will not bow down to anyone. Fine, but then why follow it with a hullabaloo when another character is thrown out of the kingdom for refusing to bow down to the Queen?

The one that takes the cake, though, is much later during the battle where the English positions their cannons behind a temple. Now for a movie that has been blatantly going on and on about love for motherland before everything else, it suddenly has the characters deciding that the protection of the temple is primary. So, they work around a way to carry on the attack without causing any damage to the temple, even putting their own lives at stake!

After a point, it turns out to be all trumpets of jingoism and ‘naari-power’ with no real substance.  In fact, it works as a “beginners’ guide to the Jhansi Rani with the depth of an Amar Chitra Katha.

What though makes the movie work, to a decent extent is the powerhouse efforts of Kangana. She gives it all to the titular role of the fierce and brave legend. It is a performance that rises above the script and screenplay to carry the movie home. In an industry dominated by the Khans and Kapoors, she is once again out there proving that she can run the show on her own. In fact she even puts in a line about ‘speaking English’ as if to throw in a fitting reply to all her trolls.

However, her attempt to do ‘everything’ on her own is also the movie’s biggest folly. Firstly, her additional responsibility of being the stand-in director has affected her onscreen performance. At times in the second half, you witness her going overboard as the intensity picks up. And for all other tricky scenes, you see her getting out of situations with ‘eyeball-popping’ ease.

Everything is written around the central character without leaving any scope for the other characters. As a result, you see despite a support cast that comprises names like Atul Kulkarni, Suresh Oberoi and Danny Denzongpa, it seems much of their work has been left back at the editing room. You experience scenes awkwardly jump from one to another in the first half, and characters popping in and out with not exactly a flow. Even Zeeshan Ayub, who is relatively a reliable showstealer ends up making no impact. One must remember that the role was originally shot with Sonu Sood and once he walked out, Kangana ended up reshooting all the scenes with Ayub. As a result, Ayub’s scenes are all shot with a handful of British actors and never really interacts with any of the key characters except for one key moment, when the heir to the throne is announced.

The less said about the English/Western actors the better. They still end up playing caricatures and still end up mouthing hindi lines even when they communicate with each other.

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Production wise there is much to be admired here. Despite not having the budget of a Baahubali or the opulence of a Bhansali production, it still boasts of commendable efforts in the set designs and costumes. The fight and battle sequences were also adequately mounted but lacks the creative flourish to make it stand out from the rest of the Indian movies of similar genre.

Music from Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy is functional. Prasoon Joshi’s dialogues seem uncharacteristically overzealous, dripping in national fervor. I am not sure of how much of Vijayendra Prasad’s original screenplay has made it to the screen.  But the final product constantly oscillates between a factual historical drama to a crowd-pleasing fantasy epic, eventually becoming neither.

Whatever the shortcomings, Manikarnika thankfully does not turn into a snooze fest or a silly comedy. The director in Kangana has managed to ensure that the movie avoids being any of that. The fact is in an attempt to make it all about her, she has definitely kept the movie from soaring to any further heights. For now, we get an average movie with a superlative one-woman show. But unlike the imagery in our heads from the history books, this one is not going to remain etched that deep.

 

Cast: Kangana Ranaut, Jisshu Sengupta, Atul Kulkari, Danny Denzongpa, Ankita Lokhande, Richard Keep, Taher Shabbir, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayub, Kulbushan Kharbanda

Directed by Kangana Ranaut  and Radha Krishna Jagarlamudi (Krish)

Rating  2.5

Mamarziyaan Movie Review: Unchained Melody!

 

manmar1Very rarely do one get to witness a stand out climax in our romantic dramas like the one we see in Manmarziyaan. One that is sans the melodrama or the cliché settings (say like an airport or a railway station). It is something wonderfully set up by director Anurag Kashyap, who for a change grapples here with something more mainstream.

But the ending is only part of the tale. For first, you must reach there. And unfortunately, for that you need to tread a path that is familiar – as familiar as the Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam template, or the Rab Ne Banadi Jodi ones. Or for those familiar with South movies, as back as the Mani Rathnam classic Mouna Raagam or an Antha Ezhu Naatkal (remade in Hindi as Woh Saat Din).  Here too, we watch as a young woman fall in and out of love, leaving the men in her life to helplessly sit back and watch as she sorts out the messy affairs of her heart.

The lady is none other than Rumi (Taapsee Pannu). She is a happy go lucky, free spirited young woman who likes to live life on her terms. Rumi has no qualms in sneaking in over her boyfriend Vicky and indulging in some ‘f-yaar’ away from the eyes of her family members. But when her folks do find out, she immediately takes control of the situation stating that she wants to marry her Tinder find. She even promises that if her boyfriend fails to show up with his parents formally with an alliance, she is willing to be the sacrificial ‘donkey’ and shall be up for an arranged marriage with any idiot who her family deems right.

That is the confidence she shows in her lover. But little does she know him. Vicky Sandhu (a terrific Vicky Kaushal) is a hopeless irresponsible bloke, a DJ by profession, is so in love with Rumi that he can leap rooftops for his love but the first to run away from any talk of commitment and marriage. He is the kind who is all set to elope with his girl, but without a penny in his pocket. And most of the first half is spent with Rumi trying to get some sense into the guy’s head and get him to be serious about their relationship in a more responsible manner for once.

Enter Rajbir aka Robbie (Abhishek Bachchan) , a investment banker from London, in town looking for prospective brides. But when the marriage broker shows him a pic of Rumi, he is immediately fixated on the woman. Despite being aware of her torrid affair with the Dj dude, Robbie still decides to risk things on an alliance with Rumi.

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Anurag Kashyap thus brings these three diverse characters into the setting of middle -class Punjab to give you this bold take on the above-mentioned template. The loud Bhansali style Gujarati setting of Hum Dil De…,makes way for a subtler Punjabi one.

It is important to note how Kashyap and writer Kannika opts to keep the script free of any villains. Therefore you do not see the usual scheming family members or the screaming babu-jis in this one. In fact, all of Rumi’s family appear to be supportive of any decision that Rumi makes, that is she if makes up her mind. Having lost her parents at an earlier age, she cleverly manipulates things to her advantage with her aunts, uncles and grandfather to get whatever she desires. And as much as reckless and rebellious, she is also shown someone to be attached to things that she holds dear and near. Notice how she wears her father’s shirt when she goes to ask Vicky to propose to her.

But Rumi is as complex a character that can be, volatile and affectionate in equal measures and Taapsee Pannu has absolutely nailed this one. In what is easily her career best performance, Taapsee is in full control over her multi-faceted character. She is undoubtedly the life of the movie. But she gets wonderful support from the rest of the cast. Vicky Kaushal absolutely rocks as the irresponsible man-child and despite all the flaws of the character, Vicky still makes the character so endearing, without putting a foot wrong.  Abhishek Bachchan, returning after a gap of two years, unfortunately is still playing the bland Ramji types- the kind he played in Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna,.  However, the writing fails to do justice to this third wheel and even performance wise- Abhishek despite his calming assured presence, fail to really bring anything new to his portrayal.

Despite its predictability , Anurag Kashyap and writer Kanika ‘s treatment keep things interesting.  The characters here are not boxed into any stereotypes and each have enough shades of grey to keep the viewers hooked. In fact, there is this constant motif of duality that is the center-stage of this script whichKashyap keeps exploring with these characters. And to drive home the point, he deliberately keeps throwing the visual cues like the dancing twins (Poonam and Priyanka Shah) or the twin guys we see in the Kashmir episode.

It is a welcome return for Kashyap to the romantic genre after a series of crime dramas since tasting success with Dev D. But Kashyap being Kashyap, gets into his fair share of indulgence that makes the movie appear a slog at 155 minutes. As we grapple with Rumi’s indecisiveness, Vicky and Rumi’s antics get a little too repetitive and brings down the energy at a lot of instances. You would find yourself wishing that these two would for once make up their minds and move on.

Glad to find Kashyap and writer Kannika truly liberating Rumi and unchaining her from the Bollywood rulebook that defines how a leading protagonist should act and behave onscreen. Virginity and sex is never brought up as a hindrance to anything as the big issue over a small tissue is outright thrown out of the window in this unflinching take on love, lust and marriage. In fact, right at the beginning, in the scene when the family members discover Vicky in her bedroom Rumi’s immediate reaction is  ‘ So what?’

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Successfully aiding Kashyap’s return to the romantic genre is partner from Dev D days – Amit Trivedi.  Together with lyricist Shelly, the team has come up once again with a scintillating soundtrack that really works wonder and is effectively used to keep the narration stay afloat , capturing the various moods as required.

Cinematographer Sylvester Fonseca does full justice in capturing the hustle bustle of the small-town Punjab.  Kashyap also cleverly uses food as one of the crutch points. Lassi, pakoras and such mouthwatering delicacies are served aplenty and all the food talk could whet up an appetite in you. So it is best advised not to watch it on an empty stomach.

Manmarziyaan, like its title, seem to be content doing its own thing as it pleases. Refusing to cater to the tried and tested, it constantly pushes and rebels its way out of the labels. Kashyap and team may not have exactly hit it out of the park but has managed to carve out something distinctly bolder from the usual bunch of glossy rom-coms and romantic dramas that Bollywood churns out. And much like its characters, Manmarziyaan is a movie that needs to be accepted with all its imperfections.

 

MANMARZIYAAN  (2018)

cast:  Taapsee Pannu, Abhishek Bachchan, Vicky Kaushal

Music:  Amit Trivedi

Directed by Anurag Kashyap

JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM movie review: Bites the dust!

Cast: Chris Pratt,Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall, James Cromwell, Toby Jones, Jeff Goldblum, BD Wong and Isabelle Sermon

Directed by J A Bayona

studio  UNIVERSAL

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

The People vs OJ Simpson: A TV Series that Towers Above All

“Pressure! You want to turn up the pressure? The city is about to explode!” Somewhere in between episode 9, Shapiro slams Cochran for aiming to heat up a story already loaded with perception, half-knowledge, and truly critical socio-political scenario. Immediately following this scene, Darden reprimands Clark with shivering rage for including Fuhrman as a witness and getting him to testify. By this time in this exceptional TV series, we are as outraged, exhausted, frustrated, and agitated as the characters in front of you are.Continue reading “The People vs OJ Simpson: A TV Series that Towers Above All”

THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE Review: Not So Serious!

In the perfect world – everything ought to be awesome. And with THE LEGO MOVIE, it did manage to capture that idea and make it come alive on the big screen. It was a perfect template to pick and choose characters from various intellectual properties and have fun with the toys and make a story around it as you go along. It struck a chord with the inner child in us and went on to stand out as one of the best movies of that year.Continue reading “THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE Review: Not So Serious!”

Patriots Day (2016) Movie Review: Strength in Pain!

PATRIOTS DAY is the third collaboration between director Peter Berg and leading man Mark Wahlberg. And like the previous two movies, LONE SURVIVOR and  DEEPWATER HORIZON, this too is based on a real-life incident. A formula that Berg is perfecting, this time he opts to retell the tragic Boston Marathon bombings of 2013, with a screenplay based on the book, Boston Strong.

Mark Wahlberg plays a fictional character, Tommy Saunders, whom the writers planted in the screenplay as a binding factor, while the narrative span across the events from the day of the tragic Marathon day right until the capture of the actual bombers.Continue reading “Patriots Day (2016) Movie Review: Strength in Pain!”