Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) – Chaos, My Lord

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If a gigantic expansion of the world into galaxies with visceral characters, ranging from sublime to frantic, isn’t enough to tune you in—imagine these creatures of the universe as one giant, embracing family fighting for themselves and along the way ravaging baddies for fun. Good enough? The guardians, a total whizz of chaotic mortals, have their own history, sad and profound, but together these maddened beings find friendship and acceptance among each other to form a wacky team that you couldn’t help but adore even if you had venom in all your spikes. Director James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy follows these wild space creatures in their journey from mercenaries to heroes, from genetic freaks to palpable souls.

The movie starts with young Peter Quinn summoning the last words of his cancer-stricken mother. She leaves him forever, even though in spirit never, and hands over her coveted archives to him, and some physical antiques of music collection, which becomes the pivot of Peter Quinn’s character, Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) as he evolves to become. Call it Karma or right timing; a UFO adopts this 8-year-old recluse. Once he’s in that thing, he’s no longer citizen of this terrain, but Star-Lord now. A ladies man 101, he has a quick tongue and is a negotiator, as he calls himself, although he’s really just a space scavenger who’s retrieved a silvery orb, the most searched about piece of jewel in the galaxy, but for him—none important than his own 80’s style Walkman. Bad luck for him though, everybody wants the orb, some his Walkman. He can’t let it slip into the hands of the dark men of the galaxy or else, you guessed it, doomsday would behold the universe.

On his mission to sell this orb, Gamora (Zoe Saldana), the sexy mutant assassin, tries to steal it from him. She works for Ronan, the Accuser (Lee Pace) – the baddie of this episode out to retrieve the orb for it contains the power of all powers and would make him the King of the Universe. Joining the mayhem, the smart and condescending Rocket, the Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) and the adorable walking tree with heart and soul—Groot (Vin Diesel), they create quite a scene in the utopian land of Xandar, the Nova capital. The well-quipped and savvy Nova Corps arrest Star-Lord and the mischief mongers. They’re jailed and are forced to live under one roof. It’s in this state of art facility, a technological haven, these losers come together and are forced to bond. Attended by the matter-of-fact Drax, the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), these mischief mongers now have a chance to evolve into bedlam warriors, if they bond… Do they though? Oh well, they do sort of, but well, not really…

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With such chaotic characters and a wild premise, Guardians of the Galaxy has too much to deal with. It’s a madcap of eccentric characters, sadistic villains, quirky monsters, and plain, dumb folks, but that’s the charm of this cinematic journey. It takes all the possible recipe of superhero flicks and blends it in one delicious dish that ticks all the right boxes. A loud and hilarious Raccoon, a footloose leader, an insipid destroyer, a compassionate tree mouthing three innocuous words and an alienated assassin—they form an unlikely tribune and find a purpose to their otherwise uninspiring lives.

The story is gripping right from the go and the dazzling special effects style it as an epic showdown. But there are other far deeper cursors setting apart this galaxy from similar superhero ventures. The witty one-liners and hilarious dialogs apart, the story is beautifully weaved, under an apparent structure, and with perfect layering of the main plot and the sub plots; the actions only serve as tangible products of an otherwise emotional journey of these people dazed and confused.

What works for Guardians, amongst the dwarfing world of the galaxy, is the simplicity of each character and the creaseless rendering of their emotions. The movie simply transports an ordinary story about a bunch of people who we’ve seen many times into a larger than life setting. Swift and emotional, the film succeeds in inducing warmth and affection for the citizens of the galaxy, specially the eccentric characters that are all cute for their own reasons. You relate to them in peculiar ways and actually care for what they do—rooting for them, giggling with them, laughing at them, and feeling sorry for them.

Together, these bunch of jerks, travel across the galaxy and come close to each other. Drax finds his lost family in his new friends. Gamora learns emotions though Quill and the crazy people around her. Rocket finds a purpose. Groot serves as the all-embracing Nature phenomena, caring for all, loving all—a nice little metaphor in one story rich in metaphors and beautiful in harmony. And, the street smart Quill gets the affection he never got from these unlikely combatants.  Emotional, warm, and rich—Guardians has amazing visuals, terrific villains, a promising setup, and brilliant execution, but what holds it as one silvery orb of value are the idiosyncrasies of these characters and their convergence into a dynamic troupe. Similar to the magnetizing star of Star-Lord, these lost souls gravitate towards each other like iron to magnet.

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In the end, Guardians of the Galaxy makes you appreciate clutter giving you 2 hours of terrific entertainment and taking you from humor to admiration to a state of feel-goody bliss in awe of these pathetic beings who just happen to be earnest and beautiful. Coming from Marvel Studios, it’s commendable how they’ve taken the less popular Superheroes to brilliance, whether it’s Captain America, Iron Man, or now the Guardians of the Galaxy.

Guardians is splendid—a madcap of a superhero blockbuster flick—where the amazing visuals is only the starting point of an adventure so engrossing, deeply engaging.

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The Expendables 3 (2014) – Intolerable Cruelty

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There aren’t many movies I’ve regretted watching. Even the uninspiring action movies from the action stars of the 80s and early 90s promised some engaging moments. Lackluster they may be; some were very entertaining. The Expendables was a nostalgic ride for fans of brute action. The second one seemed right, as the Expendables had now turned into a milking cow for the aging actions stars passed their peak. The third one, this one, is just a train wreck. One of the lousiest movies of the year, it’s dreadful and nothing—not one single facet—redeems this movie. It’s downright bad.

Barney Ross (Sly Stallone) is in a mission to wipe out the bad guys again. His old cast seems too emotional and stuck in a period opposable to their leader. He needs to do it without them for the risk is ominous and he doesn’t want to harm his buddies. With that, Ross recruits a younger, livelier crop to take on Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), former ally, now arch nemesis.

It doesn’t sound too bad, does it? It sounds monotonous more than bad, I admit. But once the movie opens, the badness begins. The over the top destruction of locales has become as common as a fly in Hollywood territory. In this case, it goes a notch up with these men destroying people and sceneries just for fun. That’s the purpose of the movie, you may say, so we let it pass. Nonetheless, the purpose from director Patrick Hughes surely wouldn’t have been to execute a horribly scripted, insipid, and chaotic movie that not only breaks the bones of those on the screen, but also triggers headache to those off the screen. Precisely, what the squad of Expendables do to your head.

The whole motive behind this series was paying homage to the action movies of the past. That was fine with the first one, but with this, you just stop caring. The emotions the characters try to force were funny, not moving at all. Watching them joke, argue, or fight with each other gets irritating after about 10 minutes into the movie. I didn’t even care, nor would you. In fact, saying that it fails to capture the fancy would be a compliment here. The screenplay commits the horrendous sin of making you indifferent to the subject. The sad part is that it’s not even remotely entertaining.

If you want to torture somebody, make sure you take them with you to watch the Expendables 3. Beware though, you must have a thick head to tolerate the parody on-screen yourself, whilst have 2 hours to waste watching this pathetic wanna-be bad ass action movie that does nothing but feed the egos of these actions stars, especially Stallone as it seems.

And, did I mention that the movie is racist and sexist too? As if, it could get any worse… Tasteless, plodding, a sham of an action movie, the stuff churned out here is bloody depressing and watching the alleged Kings of Action perform a mockery of their own testosterone-pumping manhood is not what a viewer would pay their hard-earned money for. Avoid, at all costs.

Maleficent (2014) – The Tenant of the Moors

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Cast

Angelina Jolie as Maleficent
Elle Fanning as Aurora
Sharlto Copley as Stefan
Sam Riley as Diaval
Imelda Staunton as Knotgrass
Lesley Manville as Flittle
Juno Temple as Thistletwit
Isobelle Molloy as Young Maleficent
Michael Higgins as Young Stefan

Every moment has a long trace behind it. What our eyes see is hardly closer to the imperial realities leading to that moment. Keeping that in mind, Poe approved, “Believe nothing of what you hear and only half of what you see.” The story of Sleeping Beauty by Charles Perrault is the version all of us have heard, read, and seen. The old fairytale about Princess Aurora’s 100 years a sleep slave is revamped in this new version of Sleeping Beauty, this time from the perspective of Maleficent, going back to her roots and learning about her, a bit, and discovering that she is not exactly the preacher of evil as portrayed in the original fairytale.

As such tales usually start, once upon a time, there lived a fairy by the name of Maleficent who protected the Moors from humans, utterly savage humans enslaved by greed and lust. She was the generous Queen Fairy who befell into humanly love with a mortal, Stefan—the future ruler of the Kingdom and father of Princess Aurora. In his lust for power, Stefan betrays Maleficent using her weakness against metals and detaching her wings from her body—turning her into the Dark Mistress of All Evil that she went to be known as—from the original Compassionate Fairy and Protector of the Moors that she was. As the fairytale has it, Maleficent curses Princess Aurora on her christening to fall in a deep sleep after pricking her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel on her 16th birthday. The rest, as they say, is history—but not quite in this reinvigorated tale of Maleficent directed by Robert Stromberg and prudently adapted by Linda Woolverton.

The basic premise remains the same to the fairytale, but this live-action epic retells the story of Princess Aurora from Maleficent’s point of view. The narration by Janet McTeer (as the elderly Princess Aurora) embezzles the movie with an almost bookish, fairytale-esque aura—rekindling the warmth of the classic fairytale that we have all felt in our childhood. The same warmth in McTeer’s voice carries on to the screen showing us young Maleficent bubbling in her own charms filled with innocence, and falling for a meager human, Stefan.

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Going to a period before Maleficent became The Maleficent; the backstory is detailed and has a comprehensiveness to tell us what really happened, why it happened, and how did it all come to a head in the grand finale. Very convincing, we ultimately feel for her predicament and as evil as she turns out, every drip of pain and anguish in Maleficent’s life caused by King Stefan shakes the viewer in support for her and in sympathy towards her degeneration from the sunny protector fairy to the dreaded, almost gothic, dark mistress of evil.

For somebody who grew up reading these tales, Maleficent will be another trip back to those nostalgic lanes. With a plot that ventures into the psychology of the Dark Angel, the story is rich in allegory. A critic gives life to art, said Wilde, and taking that liberty—in this aesthetic restating of an immortal story, the themes of politics and democracy live subtly within. After all, Maleficent protected her Kingdom from humans and by hook or crook, in this retelling, she manages to unify the Moors and the Kingdom into one utopia  under a compassionate, noble, and worthy Princess, later Queen, Aurora. It could count as a master class lesson of chess by the tactical genius within Maleficent, no doubt, but the story might be a bit deeper for the fairytale that is Sleeping Beauty. Maleficent is without question profounder than the archetypical children fantasy, and that makes it stand out as a unique recycling, whilst bestowing a fresh life into this universal classic.

Angelina Jolie as Maleficent overpowers the ginormous special effects, dazzling in its own right, with the role of the enigmatic mistress giving her a much-needed reprise as an actor. There are several scenes in the movie featuring Jolie, not being specific to maintain sobriety, which makes you feel for her loneliness, with the pain visible in her mannerisms and the grief in her expressions. The transformation of the Moors swiftly reverberating Maleficent’s transformation from the bright, sundry angel to the dark, twisted fairy makes it a sight to watch, which along with the dark composition vindicates the change, in turn inventing the movie as an emotional rollercoaster and an engaging watch, rich at times, gloomy at others—but thoroughly enjoyable at all times.

Many were skeptical about Sleeping Beauty getting a makeover, yet Maleficent is not only just a makeover relevant to this time and age, it also reveals the inner conscience and psychology of a woman left to shreds. It is like peeling the layers of an onion going a notch deeper exploring human nature and psychology—why events turn out to be as they are and how everything is an effect of some cause that is never visible, yet the effect is always pronounced. In that way, Maleficent is stark, philosophical, and reflects the graver aspects, which is why it seems many have not been able to digest the gravity of the matter here.

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With some of the best CGI and special effects complimented by a strong performance by Jolie and a joyous flip of an old story, Maleficent is Disney’s classic feel-good tale that tells about love, forgiveness, redemption, and the virtue of goodness. Maleficent makes you emotional with the story showing that love exists at all levels—not merely as described in original fairytales or in the glamorous world of romance. A complete family extravaganza full of emotions, and with a strong message of transformation attached to it, do thyself a favor: watch Maleficent. It will really make you feel good.

Inception (2010) – Shattered Dreams

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Ten hours flying in the sky, a journey of a lifetime, and it could last 50 years in a state beyond consciousness—that’s just a sneak peek into a world of a dream within a dream. Billionaire energy executive Saito (Ken Watanabe) offers master extractor Dom Cobb, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, an assignment that could end his forced exile if he pulls it off. The plan is to implant an idea into the mind of energy tycoon Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy), heir to the most powerful energy empire, by subconsciously cajoling him into doing the opposite of what a true businessperson would, consolidate and concentrate; instead, Cobb is supposed to inject the idea persuading Fischer to voluntarily dismantle his empire. An absurd idea and perhaps, out of mind, but that’s Inception in all its imperfections.

If Inception proves anything, it has to be Christopher Nolan’s stylish storytelling prowess. You have to hand it to him for staggering audiences with a fairly well-known plot surrounded by a nifty theme that has defined originality in movies, to some extent, in spite of being a signature heist drama from Hollywood. A template movie as such, Inception is a dazzling prototype demonstrating the art of innovative reprisal. It might be vain, although, to call it a reprise. After all, 4 years ago when it first hit the screens, the movie met with a plethora of rave reviews and audience acceptance—many considering it one of the most intelligent movies of our time. Hardly off the mark.

Inception is no doubt a shrewd movie, but what takes it a notch above is the intelligent treatment of a basic action drama with shades of espionage. For this sole purpose, Nolan deserves the plaudits for doing the ordinary in an extraordinary way. Consequently, people are bound to remember this brain-twisting saga for the story but also, more precisely, for arresting the imagination of viewers, thereby, involving them in the process of constructing and demolishing a mysterious labyrinth called, that’s right, inception.

Throughout the movie, one can’t help but recall Edgar Allan Poe’s poem, “A Dream Within a Dream.” The poem accurately summarizes the myriad of mayhem surrounding the inner and outer realities of our central protagonist here. The nature of Cobb is almost as delusional as Poe’s speaker in the gothic poem. Also, much of the high-fi Laws of Inception point to the gist the poem wishes to impart, which of course mayn’t be anywhere near Nolan’s psyche when he wrote this startling story, but the tone of the movie is similar to Poe’s hallucinatory poem on the flux of reality.

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In Inception, Nolan creates a maze of illusion in which dreams marry a singular reality, creating chaos in the process—ultimately extinguishing the thin line between subjective reality and objective truth. It’s not just a story about dreams within dreams. It’s rather a perspective into what is real, what feels real, and the abyss that we know as conscious existence. The dazzling effects and the fascinating gimmick notwithstanding, Inception speaks volumes on the philosophy of existence and the power of freewill. People have subjective memories and interpretations and we don’t need to dwell into sophisticated trances and dream travels to understand how reality comes from acceptance—embracing life in all its color, mood, and texture.

Some of the effects in this juggernaut are dreamlike, no pun intended. Paradoxical, the tinting and curling of walls, the coiling of streets and architecture, and the space devoid of gravity, these absurd realities almost point to a surrealistic state of mind—giving Inception a dysfunctional preview. This mixture of reality with dreams, the surreal, also attaches the movie with profundity; each action having a rippling effect, and the vulnerabilities increase as the characters go deeper into their states of fantasy.

As such, Inception solely treads on the path of Dom Cobb more than any other character. It wouldn’t have been off the mark if the movie was named The Life and Times of Dom Cobb and is most effective that way. The intricacies and greyness of Cobb keeps the clock ticking. As a man in peril, dejected, living with a devastating secret, and incapable of letting go of the past; we have a usual plot—one chance at retribution—and a traditional trapped protagonist who has to let go of his past to fulfill his desires. Cobb is the heartbeat here and as the protagonist (or anti-hero), his character brings a parallel layer of intrigue boosting the multi-layered approach Nolan adopts in the movie. Complimenting Cobb, we have other eccentric characters—a peculiar medical expert (Dileep Rao as Yusuf), another expert in forgery and deception (Tom Hardy as Eames), and an information geek (Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Arthur). Then, we have a certified architect who also happens to be a charmer (Ellen Page as Ariadne)—working, both, as the pivot of the story and as the shrink for the main character.

Inception takes one simple plot, fixes it with a clever concept and under the astute direction of Christopher Nolan, here we are now, the movie is on the verge of achieving cult status. The primary selling point for me was the destructive love story between Cobb and femme fatale Mal (played by Marion Cotillard). Those dreary and devastating moments, a powerful showcase by Cotillard as the diffused Mal, hijacking Cobb’s consciousness into a self-created prison of illusion stands out as the most intriguing cog in this well-oiled machine—working as a major plot device, punctuating the story, and bringing everything together as one complete whole.

The action and eventuality are less compelling compared to the occurrences and episodes, which in itself is fascinating followed by the complex science of travelling in dreams, constructing mazes (dreamscaping), and escaping the same. By less compelling, I don’t mean to suggest it’s not good. Far from that, but Inception makes you want to experience the process and know more about it than merely watch cars fly, buildings collapse, guns soar, and people thump one another. The climax also becomes an afterthought because the happenings just so happen to be very interesting. That is the biggest positive of Inception—it’s not just watching to know what happens, it’s watching because the lives and times in the movie are just that bit impressive.

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Inception is a smart movie from a very smart filmmaker. A mundane story about emotions mingles in a spiritual sphere and this tantalizing fusion of the ordinary with the extraordinary does the trick. As a filmmaker, Nolan enjoys startling his audiences, but I see nothing more than emotions in Inception. It’s right around the same level as Nolan’s previous brain twister, Memento (2000). Both have their strengths and weaknesses, yet the production value understandably sets Inception apart (from Memento). As a movie, there is hardly much to choose between the two. Personally though, his finest might be the bleak psychological thriller, Insomnia (2002), which stages guilt at its optimum. Sometimes simplicity simply rules.

In the case of Inception, the chaotic character of Cobb, the intrusive romance between Cobb and Mal, and the brilliant concept of dreamscaping might slot it as one of the most innovate movies of our time and an exemplary milestone in modern filmmaking.

Godzilla (2014) – King of Monsters

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In this reboot of the Godzilla franchise, much closer in resemblance to the series created by Toho Co. Ltd., we watch the King of Monsters pit against a massive unidentified terrestrial organism (MUTO) born out of abuse of radioactive chemicals in humankind’s quest to rule the world. As a reaction to such human cockiness, a destructive, hybrid of a terrestrial crawler and a sky sailing ave comes to existence and that could only mean that human existence in itself is at stake. It’s either them or us. Then again, let’s not ignore the role of Mother Nature. Using the truest adage, Nature evens everything out, Godzilla appears out of this chaos to eliminate the MUTO, and when it comes to knowledge that there’s not one but two of them out there, we’re set for an enthralling finale—a double bonanza, it’s Superhero Gojira vs. the Evil forces of human garbage. It’s show time, baby!

For a grand Hollywood fanatical movie, Godzilla is a damn impressive tale of human cockiness. Although, it’s filmed in a generic summer blockbuster format, Godzilla has the leverage to push the entrance of our main attraction, Gojira, as further possible despite not losing audience attention and interest. The first hour of the movie goes into building for the grand climax. In any other case, it would have had us in a maze of boredom, but knowing what to expect and the, by now, mystical and mythological charm of Godzilla, it keeps us anticipating the eventual entry of the showstopper. When it does make its heavyweight entrance, I felt like cheering for the unlikely hero, or villain, or antihero, or even antivillian, whatever seems appropriate. This mystical unsegregated characteristic of Gojira makes it appealing and a fantastic way to conclude the movie, with the King of Monsters fighting against other monsters, and humans—as tiny as ants—left to sit there is awe at the mercy of Nature’s calling.

Gareth Edwards, known for his Sci-fi thriller Monsters (2010), takes this reboot further than his predecessor Roland Emmerich managed in 1998, which is commendable for Edwards as he gives a new twist to this otherwise usual Hollywood summer blockbuster, only this time showing Gojira in a positive light as it’s been shown many times in Japan already. I did find the involvement of American military and the surge of the superpower a bit whimsical and regular, if you will. Nonetheless, when you look at the theme of this reboot, it almost seems justified that a superpower called America is dwarfed, bewildered by the children of Nature that is neither in control of the most sophisticated militia in the world nor comprehensible to the nation that makes other nations seem petite, like tiny dots. Here we have—three gigantic forces of Nature born out of human indulgence making a mockery out of human beings, human abilities.

With the staggering visuals dwarfing us even more, if the incredible creatures alone weren’t enough, Godzilla does what Hollywood does best—give us a visual treat and dazzle us with all the possibilities. Many times, it doesn’t work. In this case, too, it’s not perfect, or proverbial, but it’s something you’d want to experience once, even though the story is the same, the build-up—albeit enhanced—are the usual humans in peril, and the climax is an all-out exhibition of larger than life super extravaganza. Would it have worked if the legend of Gojira weren’t present in the movie? I doubt it. The iconic creature does much to get a hold of audience imagination and it’s only due to this creature, we were able to give screenwriter Max Borenstein the respect and time he expected before getting into the juice of the story. At one point, it feels like watching a hi-fi TV series in light of the detailed build-up and the deliberate motion in which the writers opt before exploding the bomb and when it does, the action is relentless—total non-stop action.

The mighty ticket prices aside, I’d recommend this movie. I doubt you’d take the sentiment away after it’s over, but it’s always nice to sit back, pop the corn, and enjoy watching one of the most popular brands unfold and make you giddy with the overwhelming effects, almost monstrous in its own right, and witness the destruction of a haven by our little Lizard. A much better indulgence than similar movies that have come out this year, Godzilla isn’t pitch perfect and the makers stretch the cradle as much as they could capitalizing on the brand value. Despite its storytelling ennui and the same old feeling it’s bound to inject into the viewer, Godzilla, in an almost right kind of manner, holds on to you and entertains you. And that’s all we seek from these types of movies, right? Arguably yes. Enjoy watching this beast stomp the city, swash monsters, devastate surroundings, if only to protect life and Nature—if only to do what Nature sent it to do. It is Gojira!

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) – The Webslinger is Back

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The most popular and loved Superhero makes his return to the screen—big or small—and whether you like the presentation or have grown past the fanboyism, you can’t help but appreciate the iconic Superhero. After the reboot in 2012, Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer) comes home with the second version in this mega budget Spider Man outing, with more action, heart-throbbing special effects, tangy angles, numerous subplots, and of course—the one, the only—Spidey is back! But one has to ponder on the consequences. Has Spider Man lived its glory? Is it time to shelve Spider Man, or may the writers and directors of Spider Man series’ be more creative and abject by giving us more of what Spider Man originally carried?

We start with the past, Peter’s (Andrew Garfield) parents—Richard and Mary Parker—fleeing away, after Richard Parker discovers the real face of Norman Osborn (Chris Cooper)—a revelation that could change the face and fate of OsCorp. Whilst a dazzling way to kick things off, it’s not until 30 minutes later in the movie, the present, that it really gets going after the electrocution of Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx), who then goes on to become Electro. During the same period, Norman Osborn passes away leaving his legacy to his son, Harry Osborne (Dane DeHann). Harry not only inherits the Empire but also the disease, which cripples him, maims him, prompts him—turning Harry into a Goblin, the Green kind. The disease starts appearing on his body and he deludes himself that the only way to survival is the blood of Spider Man. Things don’t go as planned for Harry and Electro, with them forming an allegiance against Spider Man and his lovebird, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone).

As a legacy, Spider Man has a lot of goodwill working in its favor. The villains, the already immortal character, fan boys like yours truly and of course the financial backstopping that Spider Man is amidst a part. In itself, Spider Man remains this all assembled franchise where you needn’t ask for anything more… Yet, perhaps, you could? Whether it was Sam Raimi’s Spider Man trilogy or the current series helmed by Marc Webb, I’ve always wondered why these makers opt for a select number of adversaries as opposed to enhancing the array of Spider Man villains available in archive. Nonetheless, due to copyright matters and all the gloom, here we have The Amazing Spider Man, as it is.

The Amazing Spider Man 2 is another one of those could have been flicks. What would seem as a case of screenwriting training, the penning trio of Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and Jeff Pinkner acclimatize with precarious plot devices, many straight from the book, in creating a perfectly textbook screenplay that becomes too methodical and fabricated as the story progresses. I’m not exaggerating when I say that any avid filmgoer could call the next scene or the next major sequence a mile before it actually happens. The range of characters, the multi-layered and intense story, and the way all these juxtapose together ends up making the movie a glorified pilot episode that would have been brilliant for television, but ends up being too much of an overdrive for a movie.

Emma Stone filming The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in New York on 17 April.

The brewing relationship dilemma and the romance between Peter and Gwen add the finer touches to the movie. The subtleties between Parker and Gwen bring up the human element, the sentimental hint, and their complex, complicated relationship; the profound depths of their predicament stand, by far, the most attractive acquisition of this installment. Having said, it might not be the silkiest road to romance and mutual understanding because there are times when these pious lovers love each other to the extent of consensual separation just because their love is far stronger than any other force in existence, which would be apt if it dared to make us empathize. Sadly not!

In an attempt to be something, The Amazing Spider Man 2 tries too hard, and at the pinnacle, crumbles apart because it has too much to say, yet very little is meaningful. Apart from the romance between Parker and Gwen; not much actually… Playing with layers and multiple subplots are some of the best tools in enhancing the experience for the viewers, which is quite a gallant intention from the writers. When you suppose it’s the writers of previous million-dollar spectaculars, the question to be raised, especially when it comes to this immortal franchise, why does Spider Man 2 seem so distraught and jarring despite having stellar special effects and a history of animation behind it? With that, I’d like to project my attention to Marc Webb, whom I feel just botches a spectacular chance in taking the series further than its predecessors did. The characters are part of a musical chair, they come and go, and chances are if you’ve watched major Superhero movies from the last fifteen years, you’ve watched everything The Amazing Spider Man 2 has to offer and more…

How many times before has lack of proper communication caused the world to fall apart? Tick. How many times has misunderstanding created rift between two superpowers? Tick. How many times has a friend felt betrayed for selfish reasons? Tick.  How many times has your enemy’s enemy become your best friend? Tick. How many times… That’s right. And, none of these would have mattered, if Spider Man 2 dared to dream, as they say. In forcing a full-throttle superhero action drama, the makers have played it safe and so methodical that everything in the movie comes detached and at times, mind-boggling at the sheer stupidity of events, or the plain sadness in how Spider Man franchise has been beating a dead body over and over.

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So yes… Let this spider bite you. Let the web slinger enchant you, but The Amazing Spider Man 2 isn’t the flawless reverence to the legend of Spider Man. The movie is still one heck of an experience, and for lovers of the hanging legend of Manhattan, you could give it a shot, but be assured, it’s not really worth any shot on its own merits. Probably the first time the Superhero is not the center of attraction in the movie, which could be decoded either way—positive because it is a mystery or negative because it feels like a sterile start to something else. Either way, this Spider Man edition has it all, as a paradox, and doesn’t have much… Capped by a ludicrous denouement, which we all get, the final 10 minutes was the slasher for me and summed this movie for what it deserved—something that could have been so much more, but as it stands, is nothing more than a disappointing flight from one skyscraper to the other in a trance beyond comprehension.

Noah (2014) – This Ship Has Sailed

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Darren Aronofsky travels to the Biblical age with Noah revisiting the Genesis flood narrative from The Old Testament and the construction of the greatest marvel known to existence, Noah’s Ark. With the sole ambition of saving the last traces of humanity—Noah and his family—and every animal possible in what is a total cleansing process banishing all that is evil and starting a fresh, the whole of existence, the Creator sends a colossal flood wiping away evil from the face of the Earth. Only the good-hearted Noah along with his family and the innocent animals survive to arrive at the laps of Mount Ararat. Mythical sciences around the world have suggested many flood narratives threatening to end the world and existence, as we understand. Noah’s Ark, being the most popular of such myths, becomes the subject for Aronofsky’s masterwork.

The descendent of Seth, the white one, Noah, played by Russell Crowe, pledges to save the soul of Creation by building an Ark with instructions from the Creator itself—a measure to survive the gargantuan flooding that would last 370 days. Whilst building the Ark, Noah comes across various impediments and sees the nature of humanity as corrupt, selfish, and egoistic. Facing opposition from descendants of Cain, the evil one, and with the aid of some giant, rocky troll-like creatures that are the Fallen Angels called The Watchers, Noah completes the task, but the real conflict—the real poison—is within him and the members of his family. Noah is a legend of inner viciousness more than outer conflict. It denotes the nature of human beings—the vile, ugly layer within the beautiful face—contrasting it to the beauty of every other organism in this planet that has more goodwill and purity inside than humans, the most conscious of all beings, yet the most derailed and desolate under whom creation has become the allegory of Hell.

Noah-Screencaps-Movie-Wallpaper-HDAs a movie, Noah has a lot of positives; it’s a must watch for the sheer imaginative visuals and to experience the mythical world in what is one of the most compelling, visually abundant cinemas that is a cinematic experience and a story relived. The time-lapse sequences, first of the diffusion of actuality around Noah’s Ark and second, the creation of creation are two of the grandest, visually spectacular pieces of optical reality on the screen. Subsequently, the special effects and the cinematography overwhelm the viewer. Not in a negative way, but the overdrive of the ocular grandeur stunts the story—making Noah a thrilling experience, a more style, less substance epic.

In essence, Noah fails to create an entrancing story—a compelling drama. Aronofsky avoids the provocative questions and emphasizes on the great escapade, yet as a story and a morally rich issue, Noah comes across superficial, with a flat story that is predictable and under the gimmick of some of the most tantalizing visuals in cinema. Stretching at 138 minutes, the pace is rather erratic, with it moving very slow in some occasions and progressing rapidly at other times. In many parts of the movie, the enchanting graphics and cinematography saved the movie from being a boring ride because it does tend to get groggy. The exchanges between Noah and his family, mostly his wife Naameh, played by Jennifer Connelly, gets too melodramatic and to the stage of annoying the viewers, especially the bickering pre-climax sequences.

If you ignore the inconsistencies in the story, the characters are all over the place. Whom am we supposed to sympathize with here? Noah comes across extremely bullheaded, a man with a superiority complex making it difficult to distinguish if God is a villain and a sadist enjoying the mayhem it created in the world. One could argue that Tubal Cain (Ray Winstone)—an animal eater—is the ultimate agent of the Devil and needs to perish from this beautiful creation of the Creator, but why would hoards of people deserve the fate? Is God not the all-compassionate one?

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Moving to Noah’s family, his children, especially Ham (Logan Lerman), is rather a silent assassin, but the character terribly disappoints as Aronofsky builds and builds the personality of Ham—only for Ham to become a recluse at the end, who just doesn’t seem to be loved by his parents or wanted by anybody else. Could you really blame him? If at all, I felt for Ham because of how he seemed to be all lost and isolated amongst his own. In some way, the grand—the greater good concept—of Noah falls into a stifle trauma and a vengeful fight between family members sharing different ideologies, which is ironic considering the stakes of all of Creation’s existence was at the mercy of this one family and one man, Noah. The measure of significance makes the trifle conflicts between the family members and their scorn for Noah for doing what he had to do even more shameful because at the end, each comes across as a self-centered individual and how could the Creator decide that such people deserve the dignity of saving the world? It just makes the entire movie pointless and a gigantic waste of resources. It just fails to evoke any empathy from the viewer. The Creator “making” Noah do what he had to do is another laugh worthy motivation. Everybody is a sinner, so we should kill everybody—except animals! The makers don’t do the concept any favors with the plotting of the story and the sequences leaving much to be desired.

Apart from the spectacular visuals, Noah has only one other redeeming quality—Russell Crowe’s performance. Although the character is very controversial, Crowe does his absolute best in putting out a show that is among his best works. As a torn father, a loyal husband, an obedient and humble descendent of Seth, and the chosen one of God to carry out the mission, Russell Crowe grows with his character and his internal pain shows up on every fiber of his being. In fact, Crowe as Noah is the only thing that works in the movie apart from the dazzling CGI, which is sad because the theme of this story had much more in it than Aronofsky could deliver at the grandest stage.

2014-Noah-WideToo patchy of a movie, too long, plodding at times, and a disappointment, Noah could have been so much more. It’s not a patch on Aronofsky’s previous works. It is pretentious and preposterous, and if not for Russell Crowe, the core of the movie could have been devastated due to the shockingly erratic handling of the overall story and the movie. The VFX, CGI, and the incredible underlining of Iceland save the movie from being a damp squib, but for a film admirer, Noah simply doesn’t deliver. I’d still recommend watching it for the enchanting experience, but don’t go expecting a story that would match up to the technology because it quite frankly lags way behind. A let down…

Mr. Peabody and Sherman (2014) – It’s Time to Save the World, Again!

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Everybody’s favorite dog, the unmistakable Mr. Peabody is back to travel across eons and rewrite historical periods with his adopted “pet” son, Shermanus of New York! Heartfelt tales from Peabody’s life and times were the highlights of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show in the late 50s and early 60s. The all-intelligent genius of a dog, Peabody, receives a modernized revamp appealing to the sensibilities of today’s audiences, and boom—he’s back to make 2014 the Peabody Year! Based on the episode, Peabody’s Improbable History, the tale starts with Peabody adopting a warmhearted baby boy, Sherman (voiced with the innocence of Max Charles), as his son. If a boy can adopt a dog, then there’s no reason why a dog can’t adopt a boy!

Ace director Rob Minkoff, of the legendary The Lion King and the earnest Stuart Little, rehashes the improbable character of Mr. Peabody into a new bottle, with a zing of refurbishment—taking viewers to a ride across time rewording history as required; the adventures of Mr. Peabody and Sherman! Voiced by Ty Burrell, his voice gives Peabody a stern demeanor, an industrious accent, and the melting warmth present in the voice of Burrell is perfectly in sync with the one-of-a-kind, Mr. Peabody. The character of Mr. Peabody shared a geeky dynamism back in its heyday. Too serious, with a degree of compassion and intellect beyond ordinary humans (and dogs), Peabody is unlike any organism walking on two legs, or four! Rarely has there been a character as contradictory in occurrence and presentation as the mighty dog, Mr. Peabody. So unique and indulging is this dog that it never received a home and was devoid of a homely life that it so desired. Consequently, when Peabody finds a child abandoned in one dark alley of New York, one only needs to complete the tedious formalities, and who better than Mr. Peabody, or Peababa, the Dogfather of his human son, Shermanus—warrior in the great Trojan War, sort of…

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With the brilliant application of 3D graphics and CGI, Mr. Peabody and Sherman is nothing short of a fantasized animated time travel bonanza, and a bit of history lesson, for children and even adults. A perfect family movie, Mr. Peabody and Sherman gallop from France, to Egypt, to Florence, to Greece reliving the thundering historical twinkles. The French Revolution, the Egyptian Institution, the Mona Lisa Smile; a communion with the numero uno visionary of the world, the Son of Florence, Leonardo da Vinci, and the wrath of the barbarous Trojan War—Mr. Peabody and Sherman is not merely another fictional animated movie, it is a historic goldmine, a perfect movie for the young ones. Behind the intelligible loose plot and some rather clichéd twists, Mr. Peabody and Sherman notches up the affectionate merger of emotions and actions sharing its viewers in the trip around the world where adults and children could sit together at the table of joy and pleasure. In a nutshell, that is what Mr. Peabody and Sherman aspires and succeeds in being—a joyful emotional ride across history, where the events take a backseat to the emotions of the movie making it an animation with the values of family, love, and unity at its core. But all of these are just mere episodes in the legendary life of a personality par excellence, Mr. Peabody.

Despite having a predictable story, and whilst being devoid of something truly original in terms of a plot, Mr. Peabody and Sherman whisk the imagination of children more so than the adults. The younger population shall no doubt cherish the adventures of the father-son duo, and the whizzing Penny Peterson (Ariel Winter)—their trials and tribulations, and the histrionic, yet always nostalgic—tenderness growing within the hearts amidst chaos surrounding the world around the characters. Most of the time, the always working symmetry, and screenwriter for this movie, Craig Wright, creates just the ideal disposition for this jubilant movie. The whacky characters and the continuous thrilling rides ensure that children embrace the movie, while adults admire it. My teenage sister found it hilarious, while her mid-20 brother found it amusing, and a sarcastic take on history, historical figures, and the crane of society.

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Coming from DreamWorks, the expectations are always high—especially due to their crazily warming characters and animated prose that boasts of Antz, Shrek, and How to Train Your Dragon to name a few. Mr. Peabody and Sherman may lack the jest of these classics, but its amusing plot advancement, sidesplitting scenarios, comical revisionist history, and the formidable mind-whacking characters keep viewers thoroughly engaged just the same. As if the 3D animation wasn’t enough, the twinkles in the eye are the melodious voices of the characters—adding warmness to the screenplay, and the overall essence of the movie. Zany characters, incredible CGI graphics, wonderful voices and diction, a feel good story rich with a message, and the wonderful art of storytelling—Mr. Peabody and Sherman is a story of love and affection that is wittily written and bombastically executed. I’ll be damned if the adventures of the trinity and the quirks of monuments’ men and women didn’t heed you to disremember global warming, the black hole, or the ozone layer and feel at home at the WABACK—the way back indeed.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013) – Leap of Faith

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Ben Stiller is back, and how, with an unshakable character thriving to shape his life and the world around as one storm of cognizance—into the vast depths of reality, or perhaps—absurdity! Remaking the old comedy classic by the same name (1947)—itself based on the polarizing short story, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” by James Thurber, Ben Stiller gives this new version of Mitty an elegant visage; a monarchic grandeur, a hypodermic makeover—creating an ultimate inspirational jigger; a story for everybody, a life for seekers of thrills and absorbers of adventure: the spirit of Walter Mitty!

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Living in his own world of fantasy, where he only accepts the biblical maxim of ABC—audacious, brace, creative; that’s Walter “ABC” Mitty, only too timid, shy, nostalgic, imaginative, and a subdued clone of the man that is Walter Mitty in his dreams. The story of one legendary man—similar to the everyday Joe—only this time, on the right end of the spectrum; Walter has all the time, the platform, and the “ghost cat,” at his surficial wigs of halo. It is just time that he discovers that halo. The halo arrives, big time, in the form of Sean O’Connell, played by the Icon—Sean Penn—a mythical photojournalist who, at last, proves his status as a living legend and not mythology. O’Connell, with the reputation that dwarfs in comparison to the man, and I mean this, is a longtime partner and comrade of LIFE magazine. Walter Mitty, his unduly associate—partner at work. For the very last edition of LIFE magazine before going online, Sean sends a film roll containing the special #25 for the final cover page of LIFE magazine. Somehow, sheer luck or distraught, it’s not there! With Ted “I’m lovin’ it” Hendricks (Adam Scott), Managing Director of the transition and downsizing, at his throat, Walter Mitty must find this final piece of jewel to celebrate the life and times of LIFE magazine. The stage is set for Walter Mitty—the calling of adventure, as they call it!

Ben Stiller, as Walter Mitty, is a natural. Serious, dreamy, zoned out, the ordinary guy, just a daydreamer; timid, frail, a New Yorker within New York, and a secret admirer, lover of the cutely wonderful Cheryl Melhoff (Kristen Wiig), Ben Stiller raises the game as Walter Mitty and personifies his soul with this dreary human being daring to become immortal through his own vivacity and the underestimated power of imagination. Ben Stiller has it! As Walter Mitty, not only did Stiller direct a movie that designs the grandness of living your dreams, but portrayed a dud, with his trademark comic subtlety underlying his serious zeal for adventure and, what they call, a larger than life vocation, yet just a Negative Sales Manager. It was worth the wait, if that is the curiosity. Ben Stiller just slams it.

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The spiritual enrichment of Mitty is arguably the best part of the story/screenplay. Arguable, perhaps not, because the crowned head of this visual magnum opus has to be—the one—Stuart Dryburgh (The Piano, 1993) for the camerawork that justifies the benevolence of a movie as The Secret Life… The moving visuals were, hold your breath, breathtaking; entailing the spirit of Walter Mitty, the repressed one, and vindicating the motto of LIFE, “To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel. That is the purpose of life.” Running from New York to the condescending Greenland to the eruptive Iceland, the camera illustrates the splendor of those beauty lands, but all important is the message written in each shot, each angle, each composition—stapled, you will find, the quintessence of Walter Mitty and his incredibly secret life that doesn’t confide to secrecy; it explodes out like the volcano in Iceland, and culminates into the Himalayas in the company of Ghost Cats. One only needs to dare to dream and to go beyond daring and live those dreams… Sharing the honor is Theodore Shapiro for the instrumental background score; engrossing and apt, perfect blend of melody, vocals, and the soulful injection of harmony.

At heart, Walter Mitty is just like every ordinary person—relatable in every way. Living life; dream on, go—live your dreams; we’ve heard those clichéd concepts buried to the ground and beaten until the core of the planet. Reality has a different story to share. In this case, it’s nothing about daring to live the dreams, but willing to reach to an extent for something, you justly believe in. Walter Mitty brings that contemplative moment. It addresses every day of life in this circle of stagnancy; been there, done that—in essence, have you, “been there, done that?” Taking this approach, Mitty isn’t preachy or philosophical about anything. Walter Mitty works for LIFE magazine, a monotonous job without change for 16 years, and now under the brink of uncertainty and the passion for the last picture from the iconic Sean O’Connell, this is Walter Mitty. The vivacious Cheryl instigates this coy, stale person to do whatever is necessary to do—whatever that needs to be done, but the real trigger is the guy called Todd Maher (Patton Oswalt), the eHarmony service provider, who acts as the kick-pad for Walter. On the negative—in terms of the pitch and story—the plot featuring Maher probably adds a degree of impracticality to the story. It can’t be all that convenient in Greenland, Iceland, and Afghanistan, can it now—especially from an eHarmony personnel?

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The extremities of life typified by the typical Walter Mitty, this movie is an emotional and cinemascopic marvel featuring excellent performances, especially Ben Stiller, the officious Adam Scott, and the cheerful Kristen Wigg. Not to ignore Kathryn Hahn (as Odessa) and Shirley MacLaine (as Edna) for their complimentary parts in fulfilling Walter’s life and times as the Incredible Walter Mitty in a not-so-incredible world of New York, but the almighty ubiquitous pervasion of the world’s punctuation of life and Nature. Walter Mitty is for the emotional ones; maybe not entirely unique in presentation, yet a stunning effort from the vision of Ben Stiller and the lens of the cinematographer—truly world class cinematography and a tip of the hat to the direction and performance of Ben Stiller as Walter Mitty. What clicks is the emotion, and that’s the zenith of accomplishment for any movie; The Secret Life of Walter Mitty accomplishes that zing of emotional mix.

Frozen (2013) – Boiling Love in the Arctic

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It’s winter, it’s cold, it’s chilly—it’s Frozen—steaming in July!

Frozen is a story of two sisters, Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel)—brought together by destiny, separated by circumstances. Anna grows up as the naïve, sweet girl—the epitome of Disney tales, and Elsa grows up as the retrained, contemplative, and piercingly isolated figure—probably representing the life of those high up there in the big offices. Born with special powers of Himalayan grace, Elsa can create a snowstorm from nothing and build an empire of snow and ice within moments. Living with it, as if a curse, Elsa is—for that reason—isolated from outwardly contact, including her own little sister, Anna.

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With such a tight premise, Frozen reveals the spikes of emotions for two orphaned girls in their childhood until they become the strength of one another in their adulthood. The focus, throughout all of it—without any fluctuations in the beats, lies in the saga of Elsa and Anna, with romance, love, treachery, and the subplots giving way to the main event—the relationship dynamic of the two sisters. Wrapped under marvelous 3D animations, the graphical snow land that is visually enchanting and a complete treat for the eyes, the able directions of Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee not only present an animated classic, but a story packed with sentiments, musically-rich performances, and a treatment resembling a play than an animated feature from Disney. Garlanded by the music, Frozen never loses sight of the main stroke, and the theatrical musicals advance the context drawing a fresh sigh from the usual animated movies—an animated musical epic—exhibiting the beauty of the icier world through some of the best animators around.

For Disney fanatics, the characters in this wonder movie may seem similar, almost clones of previous Disney offerings. After all, a princess, a prince, a snowman, a reindeer, a braveheart, and one illustrious Queen, what else does Disney need? The ingredients perfectly laid, the only invoking aspect now—bringing them together in a heartfelt adventure, where one is bound to forget reality and become citizens of this snowy haven. In doing so, Frozen takes inspiration from Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen, with Jennifer Lee developing a picturesque roadmap encompassing the traditional motifs from Disney fairytales in an enriched parcel, not in any manner the old wine—rather a refined wine in a magnanimous animated feature.

Once again, the animators create fantasy armed to flabbergast viewers. The icy quartz palace amidst the hailing and sensational snowstorm with crystallized arcs—beautiful in artistic design, surrounded around the state-of-art Kingdom of Arendelle, and the blankets of the arctic, Frozen is stunning in its combination of art and design with its touching story about the warmth of love. Surrounded by an array of lovable and admiring characters, especially Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), his adoring Reindeer, and the mightily cute snowman, Olaf (Josh Gad), Frozen freezes the viewers in admiration.

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A wonderful visual display of the truest and simplest emotions; Frozen stands apart as an emotional glee, a pleasing animated movie that brings back the little, happy moments of life and catapults viewers to a fairyland that most of us grew cherishing and believing. One simple magic of love stands as the infinite key to the happy summers of the land in this terrific, unmissable, experience that makes you a believer of Disney’s universe again. All I can say is, come—fall in love with your childhood, again.