19 April, 2014

The Raid 2: Berandal


The first thing you notice about Raid 2 is that unlike its brilliant predecessor, this film is not going to be a claustrophobic action film based in one location over a very short period of time. Instead, Raid 2 spans over years, months, and weeks as we see Rama played by Iko Uwais being quickly recruited to infiltrate one of the ‘ruling’ gangs in Jakarta in order to weed out the corrupt police officials.

Unfortunately, although the change in pace and a strong dramatic storyline is welcomed, the film falters because of these very reasons. There is too much unnecessary drama, and with a number of characters being given screen time for one reason or another, we see less of Rama with more focus being given on the story line which in turn is clichéd. Raid 2 is a gangster flick, but certainly not one that will be remembered for that aspect. The idea of warring gangs, miscellaneous back stabbings, father-son tension, everything has long been seen in gangster films as nothing seems original; in-fact on the contrary it is very predictable. There is also a hint of style over substance where certain characters are brought in just as an excuse to throw in another fight sequence that doesn’t necessarily take the story forward.

So, then what makes the film likeable? Just as the case was with the first film, it is once again the breathtaking action sequences, of which there are quite a few, that save the day. Gareth Evans realizes that his team has one trump card, and that is the phenomenal fights they can give him. He capitalizes on that by having fight sequences in different locations, under different scenarios, with different weather as a backdrop, and by going one step further and bringing in other elements like guns (much more than the first film) and cars to accelerate these fights.

There are a number of sequences that stand out; the car chase leaves you on the edge of your seat, and while the Hammer-girl (Julie Estelle) fights are a little reminiscent of Kill Bill and Oldboy rolled into one, it still makes you cringe and excited at the same time. Most of the action sequences involving Rama, especially the last half hour which comprises of a kitchen fight scene that left me breathless, are simply a pleasure to watch and admire. Although a few of the scenes feature handheld shaky camera action, it is a minor point that can be easily looked over when you see the big picture, even though the gore and blood that is overdone in some places is hard to forget and might be a little too much for the faint hearted.

Evans also brings in some of his old favourites from the first film, primarily Yayan Ruhian who played the much appreciated Mad Dog in The Raid, albeit as a different, almost unrecognizable, new character, but gives him a couple of fights to showcase his talent.

The Raid 2: Berandal deserves credit for trying to do something different from the first film. Regrettably, when it tries to be an undercover cop film, it fails at that, and then it fails as a gangster film also, but think of it purely in terms of action and it will surely give you your money’s worth.          

Rating 4/5          


18 April, 2014

The Amazing Spiderman 2 (Spoiler Alert!)


Fine! Spiderman 2 isn’t without faults. In fact it falls into the clichéd superhero trap a few times, but, and this is a big one, I loved the film. I loved it because not for once during the entire screen time did I feel bored or at the end thought that maybe it could have been just a little bit shorter.

With the origins having being taken care of in The Amazing Spiderman, Marc Webb gets around to play with the character in this sequel and it is clear he is having fun doing so. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone lead the cast as Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy who are struggling to make their relationship work. It is important to note that I disliked the first film, and had given up on this new reboot, having adored the ‘original’ trilogy which had more depth and character. The same is true here was well, because the angst present in the relationship of Spiderman and Mary Jane in the first trilogy is still more intense than what we see here, nevertheless, The Amazing Spiderman 2 might take the relationship a little lightheartedly, but it fits the storyline and doesn’t come across as half-baked.

The Amazing Spiderman 2 once again dares to go ahead with three villains, remember Spiderman 3 from before, but the biggest difference this time is that it is all well planned and sketched out. Paul Giamatti’s Rhino is present only at the start and at the end; Dane DeHaan’s Green Goblin only makes an entry in the climatic fight sequence, and in a funny way this film is more of an origins story of the Green Goblin so we see more of Harry Osborn rather than Spiderman’s arch enemy; and lastly Jamie Foxx’s Electro might follow the tried and tested route of a superhero’s admirer turn bad guy, but he played it out well and managed to give Spiderman enough to keep his hands full throughout the film.

What bothered me about the film, as an afterthought, were the trademark superhero scenes that we have seen a few too many times. We have Peter Parker in his home, still in costume, trying to keep Aunt May out of the room as he tries to haphazardly change into normal clothes. Then there is a scene when Electro cuts the power to the city which results in air-control unable to help two planes from colliding with each other, but as always, at the very last second, the power is turned on and the planes have a near miss. In fact even the end, which sees a little boy stand against Rhino, since Spiderman has disappeared for a while, while the public looks in shock seems to be over dramatic and if my memory serves right might have been ripped off from an Indian film called Krrish 3, which mind you in turn had ripped off X-Men, so I guess everything just moves in circles when it comes to films.

Enough movie bashing for now, for I don’t want you thinking I didn’t like the film. Remember, I loved it a lot and it could primarily be because I watched it in 3D IMAX. I have always advocated against 3D till now, but this time, it added to the film, and so did the screen size, and the excellent sound. Granted there were some problems with the 3D, like tilting my head to the side even a little would make the picture a bit fuzzy, but I guess the cinema and the movie is just promoting right posture so maybe they do care about our health if not so much about our finances with the exuberantly rising ticket prices.

When it comes to the film, Garfield and Stone and almost all the other actors are comfortable in their characters. The tongue and cheek humor present throughout adds the right amount of comedy with the magnificent action sequences (that once again make the most of 3D technology) and the drama which in turn gives us the full package. What further impressed me was that the Green Goblin, when he does make an entrance, is a lot more repulsive to look at, as he should be, than his counterpart from the earlier films. Then, there is the shocking end, which had me in two minds till the very last second of the fall, wondering if the makers would take the leap of faith and let Gwen plummet to her death or not? I am glad to say that they made the right decision at the end.

The Amazing Spiderman 2 is an entertaining film that tightly packs in all the fun and excitement that is required for a good superhero film. It moved forward with the concept that started with The Amazing Spiderman making sure that it doesn’t get stuck in the past, something that makes the film all the more likeable. True, the experience of watching it on IMAX 3D added a lot to me liking the film, but it is also true that I came out of the theater having enjoyed it wholeheartedly, and in the end that is what really counts.

Rating 4.5/5          


Locke, Hardy and the Birmingham Premiere


Birmingham, UK played host to the premiere of the latest Steven Knight film Locke starring the talented Tom Hardy on 16th December 2014.  I, along with my good friend Chris Byrne (@Cinematronix) were privileged enough to get last minute tickets thanks to the wonderful Jo Lumani (@JoLumani) and Lisa Smith (@preparedpr).

Those all mighty premiere passes.

Steven Knight and Tom Hardy work the crowds at the red carpet

Other stars that walked the red carpet included Mrs. Danielle O'Hara and Jacqueline Jossa and before you say anything, hey we two underdressed mortals too got a chance to walk the red carpet, be envyd by the crowds on the sidelines, even if it was just to enter the cinema. 

The event was a subtle affair, brilliantly managed, that placed focus primarily on the film, but not without the glamour that every premiere should rightfully have. In attendance was Steven Knight, the director of the film, and of course the one person that had a huge crowed lining up for an hour, Tom Hardy, who gives a power performance playing Ian Locke.

With each seat equipped with popcorn, a pack of Malteasers, and water, the film was initially introduced by the producer, director, and the actor in brief leaving the audience to view it without any preconceived notions. In the film, Tom Hardy, a common construction manager is faced with the toughest decisions of his life as he takes a life changing drive that lasts an hour and half.

The Question and Answer session after the film viewing.

The Screen, the Audience, and the Film Makers.
Following the film, the Steven Knight and Tom Hardy sat down for a question and answer session that provided an insight into their viewpoints and thinking behind the making of the film and I must admit that hearing more about the origins of the story and what the people making it had in mind, not to mention the technical aspects behind the making, definitely makes one appreciate the movie all the more.


Locke will release today, April 18, 2014, and is highly recommended if you enjoy character driven pieces that throws out other diversions to focus primarily on human emotion.

You can read my review of the Locke here

PS: I apologise for the picture quality as this being all last minute I had to make do with my trusted phone camera, not to mention being unable to dress-up for the event. 

17 April, 2014

Locke


In a time when fantasy and superhero movies are ruling the box-office, Locke comes as a welcome change. It’s a small piece that is more human, having its roots and basic premise originating from everyday life of the common man and woman.

Locke is almost a voyeuristic look into the trials and tribulations of Ian Locke, a construction manager extraordinaire, played excellently by the mature looking Tom Hardy, as he starts off on an hour and half long journey that will change his life. Filmed entirely in the car, the audience is privy to Locke’s dilemmas as he calls his family and work, calmly while in the eye of the storm, and realizes that the world around him is crashing down just as he is on his way to become a part of new beginnings.

At the face of it, Locke has a feel and comes across as a one man show, but is so much more than that when you factor in all the elements. The audience has an unaltered view of Ian while he drives and calls his children, wife, and miscellaneous work colleagues, and we see him as a calm character that only lets out his frustration a few times when not on the phone with anyone. In complete contrast to the serene and unruffled nature of Ian, we have the various characters on the other side of these phone calls, whom the audience cannot see, but are only able to factor in their emotions, angst, anger, and frustrations, through their voice. It goes without saying that all the ‘voice’ actors deserve appreciation for brilliantly portraying their parts and being the soul of the film.

Locke is a character study at the heart of it all. It takes you into the lives of people you see around you and how everyone, be it a construction worker or the person next to you on the bus or a shop keeper, anyone really, has his or her own problems that are equivalent to the ‘world ending’ for them.  

The film also works on a number of other levels. Initially, when Locke starts off on his journey, we are given crucial information in small parts as he starts to make phone calls. Everything isn’t spoon fed, and slowly, with the tension at its peak, just as the audience pieces together Ian’s predicament, just as we know what is going on, the film shifts gears and turns the focus on what the outcome will/should be giving the film a more dramatic edge. Now, the almost all knowing audience is left wondering how the situation will conclude, and mind you, it does in a very understated yet classically awe-inspiring way.  

The film is a bold and brave step in filming as well. Since I had the pleasure to be the part of the premier of the film and witness a small question and answer session afterwards, further insight into the film added to its charm. Just the revelation that the film was made with Tom Hardy in the car while he spoke to the various characters, in hotel rooms near the motorway, in entirety, every time, was quite interesting. Almost like a play being rehearsed, the director, Steven Knight ended up with 16 full recordings of this one and half hour film that he could then piece together.

The premier held at Cineworld Birmingham was a subtle affair that obviously was made special with the presence of the very down-to-earth Tom Hardy with loads of fans cheering his arrival. The emphasis was on the film and it was apparent that the entire team was proud of and excited about the end product, as they should be.  

Locke is just not a one man show; it is also just not a character study either, but rather a claustrophobic, intense, character driven story that places a mirror in-front of everyday life.

Rating 4/5

13 March, 2014

The Purge


Home invasion movies have come a long way over the last decade. It's a genre that has been explored in many different formats and has featured both the extremely commercial films and the more indie-types. Although with The Purge, it is not only the makers who are taking a risk, but also the audience when they give another home invasion film a chance, surprisingly, and much to the my amazement, it comes across as fresh and because of its relatively short running time is more than just acceptable.

Working on the notion that if humans are given one day a year to let go of their inner demons without any repercussions then they will remain within bounds for the rest of the year, The Purge explores the human psyche in its rawest form. There is obviously money to be made with this as we see Ethan Hawke's James Sandin being the biggest seller in the region of home protection units to safeguard the residents of his gated colony, while his children, Charlie and Zoey, struggle to still understand the reason behind this day of unashamed mass-murder.

As expected everything goes wrong when Charlie lets in an individual running away for his life from a group of young delinquents who in turn gang up on the Sandin family for harboring their victim.

While the premise of the film makes it interesting, director James DeMonaco is unable to capitalize on the horror or shock factor that could have taken the film one step further to cult status. Furthermore the tension in the characters is just not up to the mark and be this because of some overacting or the characters are just not etched out well, we do not really feel any sincere compassion towards anyone. The "action" is very subtle and most of the surprises, including the final climax, do seem expected. Still, the events happen at a fast pace and keep the film moving from one scenario to another and as a result enjoyable.

I'm am as yet to find a home invasion movie that will shock me like Funny Games, but The Purge stands out for making the principle idea of the story interesting and then playing on it brilliantly. It might seem clichéd at times, but in the end it, without a doubt, entertains and makes for a quick and fun watch.


Rating 3.5/5