Category Archives: Action

Jurassic World: Colossal but not Emotional Enough

Jurassic World; Colin Trevorrow, Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D’Onofrio, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson, B.D. Wong, Irrfan Khan and Omar Sy

jurassic world

Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park” hit the marquee in 1993. That was a classic. Ever since, cinema and the universe have come a long way. The sequels that followed were genetically modified versions of the same DNA that includes the “Jurassic World”.

The premise, the theme and the plot of the tale is nearly the same, nothing much has changed except for the visual presentation and a few sub-plots. The ‘Park’ has turned into a ‘World’, and even though the novelty factor of the dinosaurs has lost its charm, this film which has been obviously scaled to epic proportions to appeal to today’s audience, is sporadically entertaining.

Owned by business tycoon Simon Masrani and run by Claire Dearing, The Jurassic World – packed with a variety of real and holographic dinosaurs – is a resort cum amusement park on an island off the coast of Costa Rica. It has been successfully operating for over a decade.

The dip in profits makes Masrani crib. According to Claire, “The Park needs a new attraction to keep the place rolling.”

It is about demand and supply, “consumers want them” hence the research and development team, headed by Henry Wu, are constantly modifying the genes of the dinosaurs to churn out new species. The latest attraction to be introduced soon at the park is the “$26 million asset” – the Indominus Rex, a variant of the big Tyrannosaurus Rex, who is bred in isolation.

The management’s greed and the vested interests of various parties, which include a military involvement, is what leads to an undercurrent of tension in the plot. But the real problem occurs when the Indominus Rex escapes from its enclosure and goes on a rampage turning the theme park with its 22,000 visitors into a disaster zone.

The film is formulaic and predictable in structure. The first one-third of the film drags while establishing the setting. The narration gathers momentum when Claire’s nephews are thrown in direct danger in the Indominus Rex’s path. The tension builds up intermittently during the escape and rescue operation. The dramatic set pieces are outlandishly peculiar and amusing, but never frightening and the climax drags pointlessly.

Chris Pratt as action hero Owen Grady, the sarcastic Wrangler, is charming. His spontaneous witty one-liners lend a comic relief. He along with Omer Sy as Barry his colleague and Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson as Gray and Zach Mitchell, Claire’s nephew, give a humane touch to the otherwise cut and dry narration.

Irrfan Khan plays the prominent role of Simon Masrani, the owner of the park. Though he acts well he is a misfit in the role. His weak voice and his not-so-strong personality does not befit the character he is portraying. Nor, with his features, does he bring any intrigue value to the character.

Bryce Dallas Howard as Claire, the CEO of the theme park, is perfunctory. So is Vincent D’Onofrio as Vic Hoskins, who is constantly eyeing the dinosaurs for military benefits. They, along with the rest of the cast, are the typical two-dimensional characters.

Director Colin Trevorrow has done a commendable job by delivering this colossal project which is close to the original. The visuals which include CGI images, VFX and 3D effects are astonishing and the background score accentuates the viewing experience.

Three stars

By Troy Ribeiro 

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Chappie: Oddly Charming

Chappie; Neil Blomkamp, Sharlto Copley, Dev Patel, Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver, Ninja, Yo-Landi Visser, Jose Pablo Cantillo


Neil Blomkamp loves robots and aliens more than human beings and maybe that’s why all his stories so far have had something to do with the man versus machine concept. After making his smashing debut in 2009 blockbuster “District 9”, Neil became a much sought after filmmaker. But the overnight success didn’t last long as his big-budget sci-fi drama “Elysium”, his second film turned out to be a disaster. And his latest outing “Chappie” feels like it’s been made from nuts and bolts of his earlier films and the pieces don’t fit the way they should.

In “Chappie”, he envisions the world where robots aid police force in bringing down crime rate. They don’t just aid, but even risk their lives to save their human counterparts. In one such operation, a droid gets severely broken beyond repair.

Deon Wilson (Dev Patel) is the chief designer of the robots that have been successfully assisting the Johannesburg police department in fighting crime and his organization is proud of his work. But Deon has been secretly working on a program that will allow robots to have a mind of its own, behave and feel like humans with the help of artificial intelligence (AI). When he pitches the idea, his boss doesn’t approve, forcing him to illegally test it on the broken droid.

Deon’s ambitious plan goes for a toss when he is kidnapped by a group of gangsters, who plan to use him program a robot to help them pull off a big heist. Deon reprograms the broken droid with AI, and Chappie is born.

“Chappie” has very little story and whatever it has doesn’t quite engage us. But what’s charming about the film is Neil’s idea to treat humans and robots equally. When a robot can behave like us and has feelings of its own, thanks to AI, why should it still do whatever it’s instructed to do. With a mind of its own, a robot can differentiate between right and wrong but it needs to be shown how and that’s where human intervention is needed.

When Chappie is first brought back to life, it reacts to its surrounding with fear. Deon calls it a child and says it needs to be oriented. When you forget Chappie is a robot and treat it like a child, you’ll appreciate what Blomkomp tries to address here. While the gangsters want Chappie to help them pull off a heist, Deon wants it to learn ala humans. In a touching scene, Deon encourages Chappie to paint and read a book about a black sheep. Typically, a black sheep is a disreputable member of a family or group, but here it stands for someone unique and different. Chappie is the black sheep, and its uniqueness is symbolically highlighted by the orange coloured ear, which is quite evident even in the film’s posters.

But these wonderful moments don’t make up for the lack of story. And there’s plenty of awe-inspiring action in this insipid tale which like Neil’s earlier films are set in South Africa, Johannesburg; his birth place. For reasons nobody would understand, the director had cast two lead singers of the rave-rap group Die Antwoord in the lead roles, while Dev Patel tries his best to do justice as a nerd. Jackman was merely cast for the purpose to fill in the shoes of a bad man in such stories.

“Chappie” has lots of issues but it definitely isn’t a bad film. Agreed the concept is archaic, but there’s something oddly charming about it.

Three stars

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Kingsman: The Secret Service: Kick-Ass meets James Bond on Drugs

Kingsman; Matthew Vaughn, Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Strong, Michael Caine

The Secret Service Kingsman

In Kingsman, a pug is named J.B, as in not James Bond or Jason Bourne, but the initials stand for Jack Bauer (the lead character from television series 24). The film is Matthew Vaughn’s royal homage to the secret agent genre in Kick-Ass meets James Bond on drugs style of action. It finds the right balance between absurdity and hilarity and succeeds in producing, in literal meta fashion, not just an ordinary spy tale.

In one of his interviews, Vaughn described the film as a modern-day love letter to all the spy films he grew up on. In fact, it visually quotes from the spy movies that came before it and plays with audience’s memories and nostalgia. Kingsman is all that a Bond or Bourne film can’t be. There’s certain amount of seriousness you associate with most secret agent films which you won’t find here. It isn’t too funny like the Austin Powers franchise either. But there are some genuinely funny moments till the end credits.

All the tropes of a classic spy film have been dealt with some mischief in Kingsman. Beyond the improbable gadgets, far-fetched plot, a crazy villain’s plan for world domination and bloody elaborate fight scenes, there’s something instantly likable about the film. Samuel Jackson for instance plays a villain with a pronunciation lisp, dresses up like a hip-hop star and can’t fathom violence in front of his eyes. He’s cerebral. He leaves all the physical intimidation and killing to his henchwoman, with deadly blades as legs. He actually wants to save the world from itself and also wants to take out a good deal of the population in the process. Another likable aspect is that the relationship between the hero and the lead female character is mostly platonic for a change. And there’s extremely funny reference to My Fair Lady.

What’s really cool about Kingsman is the action! It’s mostly tacky and gory to the finest detail but it somehow goes with the mood of the film. Had it been your regular spy film featuring Daniel Craig, you may have had problems digesting what you see on screen. But who gives a damn about Colin Firth playing Harry Hart, a secret agent of a covert international group that acts outside of any government control. But what works in favour of Kingsman is the casting of popular actors in roles against their type. An action scene in a church featuring Firth will leave you giggling and squirming at the same time in your seat. Caine is surprisingly given a shade of grey which he portrays fittingly.

The film acknowledges all of those stupid spy clichés and then it ditches them all. The best example of this I can give is in the opening sequence of the film -there is a glass of whiskey, a lot of people die and there isn’t a drop of the whiskey spilt. The film successfully reinvents just about every stereotype imaginable in a spy film.

Kingsman: The Secret Service is weirdly entertaining without being disrespectful to the genre. You may love it for all the weird reasons.

Four stars

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American Sniper: The Sheep, Wolves and Sheepdogs

American Sniper; Clint Eastwood, Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Kyle Gallner, Ben Reed, Elise Robertson 

American Sniper

Clint Eastwood is no stranger to war movies. His style of moviemaking though is something that all of us who’ve followed his efforts over time have come to be familiar with. With American Sniper, Eastwood departs a little from his usual style to present us with what looks like a normal cut and dried combat movie transitioning into a lot more within the span of its 133 minutes. The difficulty of a directing a war movie wherein the brutality of the story needs to be captured while placing the viewer in a position where the action is detailed and immersive but not overwhelming is converted into a skill by very few directors, Eastwood being one. Late in the movie a man describes the main character in the movie, Chris Kyle, to the latters’ son as a hero. The definition of heroism or the ambiguity of it forms the constant undercurrent that we are drawn to in ‘American Sniper’.

‘American Sniper’ revolves around the life of American Navy SEAL operative Chris Kyle portrayed on screen by Bradley Cooper. The flash backs to Kyles younger days show us a Texan cowboy inspired by a childhood principle that’s burnt into him to ‘protect his own’ leading him to joining his country’s defense forces specifically the SEAL’s. Deployed to Iraq and bearing the honor and pressure of being the sniper ‘Legend’, as the troops in Iraq end up calling him because of his very special and eerily accurate sniping talent, the earnestness of Chris Kyle is brought out in what looks like a simple but would have been a tough job for Bradley Cooper given his usual self-assuredness. The very first shot shows us that it’s not the few ounces of pressure on the trigger of a long gun but the decision behind pulling the trigger that is the cause of trauma in the wars that are being waged.

Justifying his nomination for the best actor Academy, Bradley Cooper transforms himself into Chris Kyle by bulking up physically and aids Eastwood in providing the most direct perspective of Chris Kyles war – Kyles own point of view. Eastwood does not bother with justifications, ramifications or reasoning and instead puts us alongside Kyle. What starts off seeming like another clichéd approach to a war that was questioned more than any other in recent times, ‘American Sniper’ moves into more personal territory as we accompany Chris on his tours and his adjournments back home. Kyle who responds to a trainer’s question about a target with the reply that he is at his best when his target is breathing justifies to himself the taking of lives with the answer that each one he takes saves numerous others. The question never leaves him and Bradley Cooper’s brooding performance serves up his situation to us without any diluting. Eastwood and Cooper present us the side of the war that insists that violence is not being doled out because it is a quick means to an end but because it is necessary. Posing a dilemma on screen is not something that is simple but we are often posed with them during the course of the movie and therein lies the difference in Eastwood’s directing style. Interspersed with the gory results of Kyles impeccable aim are flag wrapped coffins being sent back home and there is no one answer to the question of morality in the time of war.

The rest of the cast composed of Sienna Miller and a diverse and varied set of people playing characters comprising Chris Kyle’s comrades at war, trainers at the Navy SEAL facility, veterans and of course the Iraqis, hold their own against Bradley Coopers defining performance. The editing is kept taut and to the point without unnecessarily burdening us with details while at the same time keeping information within its scope as deemed by scribe Jason Hall who has adapted it from the eponymous book.  The production design intrigued me with Humvees and actual sniping guns including the TAC 388A being used lending the movie the authentic point-of-view feel that it demands.

As reports would have it, Chris Kyle’s father seems to have met Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper (who co-produced) and after assuring them of his respect for them also assured them that he would unleash hell on them if his son’s story was not given the respect due to it. The subject matter being the cause of various international debates neither Eastwood not Cooper will be the subject of Mr.Kyle Sr’s threat given that they have managed to bring us a view from the other side of the looking glass. By the time we finish witnessing Kyle’s fourth tour we are of the state of mind where we tend to agree with his decision not to rush home but to first have a drink while waiting in a bar stateside. The scary nature of war where pressing the trigger has definitive results in terms of life and death, the reasoning behind the press of the trigger leading to more compunction than triumph is reason enough to respect the soldiers of war when their sole aim is to obey their orders and protect their brothers. What needs to be questioned is the necessity of war and violence which we will as part of my review of ‘The Imitation Game’.  Kyle’s story could have had a very Hollywood ending what with the effect of the war still apparent in him if not for his real life end. A different flavor of Clint Eastwood where he leaves the story behind the man to tell the tale.

Three and a half stars.

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Taken 3: Neeson’s Desperate Attempt To Save A Predictable Story

Movie: Taken 3; Cast: Liam Neeson, Forest Whitaker, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Sam Spruell, Dougray Scott, Dylan Bruno, Leland Orser and Jon Gries; Director: Olivier Megaton

taken 3

“Somebody murdered your mother in my house. I don’t know who did it or why, but I’ll find out,” Bryan Mills assures his daughter Kim. This forms the crux of “Taken 3”.

Unlike its previous two editions, “Taken 3” is a scaled up, reminiscent, an action-packed thriller whose premise is loosely based on the 1993-released Harrison Ford starrer “The Fugitive”. Set in Los Angeles, deadly ex-CIA operative Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) returns as a doting father to his now grown-up daughter Kim (Maggie Grace). He soon learns from his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen), who is married to a multi-businessman Stuart (Dougray Scott), that she still fantasises about him and is considering a reconciliation. But then their dreams are short-lived when Lenore gets brutally murdered and Bryan is framed for her death.

What makes this film a run-of-the-mill affair is the plot and screenplay written by Luc Besson and his long standing associate Robert Mark Kamen. The turn of events as well as the characterisation is predictable and lackadaisical. There are a couple of ‘plot-holes’ and unconvincing scenes that make the narrative appear weak. Also that is also why the actors fail to deliver.

The ageing Liam Neeson, though charming, does not elevate his character of the anguished superhero. His expressions are perfunctory, actions mechanical and speech on a low-note hollow, sounds superficial at times. On the other hand, Forest Whitaker is lively as the bagel-munching detective Frank Dotzler, who is in awe of Bryan’s impressive skills. He seems silly while trying to caricature a stereotype detective and is seriously, not funny at all.

Dougray Scott, who has replaced Xander Berkeley from the earlier edition and Sam Spruell, who plays the Russian Gangster Oleg Malankov are the new entrants. They are quite noticeable among the supporting cast as there is not much complexity in the character development.

Visually, the plethora of impressive day and night aerial shots, gives the film a superior feel. But overall, with jerky camera moments, poor lighting to capture the atmospheric tension cinematographer, Eric Kress’s work is shifty and jarring. This, combined with super quick jump-cuts, mars the viewing experience, especially during the dramatic over-the-top action and chase scenes.

The background score is perfect except for a random Hindi song in one of the scenes. That score is unwarranted to the script and sounds illogical in the narrative. With the inclusion of this number, it is but obvious that director Olivier Megaton along with his producers, is trying to please a global audience and in the bargain, have delivered a mediocre kitsch.

Two stars

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