Wonder Woman: A Fantastic Film Sandwiched Between Some Generic Noise

Wonder Woman: A Fantastic Film Sandwiched Between Some Generic Noise

Wonder Woman is a 2017 superhero film directed by Patty Jenkins, written by Zack Snyder, Allan Heinberg, and Jason Fuchs and stars Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Connie Nielsen and Elena Anaya. The film follows the life of Diana, The Princess of Themyscira as she comes into the world of men to fulfill her goal of eliminating the God of War.

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Alright, before anyone lynches me, this is a really enjoyable film. I had a ball watching it with a couple of friends of mine and I’m proud so say I led the cheers in the cinema hall when Wonder Woman actually walks out onto the battlefield as “Wonder Woman.” Stuff like that makes me happy. The good parts of the film are more than obvious within the first half hour. Gal Gadot and Chris Pine elevate a rather generic plot to because of the charm they individually possess and the chemistry they share as a duo. One can easily buy the relationship between them. Dare I say, they are the most “real” couple of any of the films on the Marvel/DC slate. I genuinely cared about their journey as a duo and was affected by every twist and turn their characters encountered.

Some of the action sequences are truly epic. Yes, those scenes and the film at large do suffer from some poorly rendered CGI/green screen effects but being invested in the action might help one turn a blind eye to those moments of imperfection. The humor is very well done, a few of the supporting characters are very likable and most of all her theme music. WOW. Just WOW. I’ve been unable to get that music out of my head since Batman V. Superman. It is one the best superhero themes since Batman’s theme from The Dark Knight trilogy.

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The film’s major drop off points come with its initial character establishments and at the final conflict. There is an insufferable blandness with the first 15 minutes of the film. Robin Wright and Connie Nielsen are criminally underused and so are the island full of Amazonian women. This wouldn’t bother me as much if the film left me with a good taste in my mouth at the closing exchanges.

The third act of this film begins with so much promise. There is an absolutely brilliant moment that alludes to a lot of character growth which is acted and directed perfectly. The story could have gone one of two ways from that point on and to my dismay, the story chose the wrong end of the stick. How the third act plays out is a microcosm of the film at large. Fantastic filmmaking and storytelling sandwiched between generic superhero tropes. There are elements of brilliance lost to noise. I’d have loved to see a more emotionally resonant ending to cap the film off but we go with what we have.

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The film also indulges in a long-standing frustration of mine which permeates many superhero films, a few examples being, Superman vs Doomsday, Superman vs Zod, Wonder Woman vs Ares, Star-Lord vs His Father, Scarlet Witch vs Vision, Iron Man vs Hulk and much more. The gripe being God-like characters punching each other in a cloud of noise and CGI wth no discernable meaning and an anti-climactic end. The power levels of those heroes/villains are never fully explained on a specific nor are their weaknesses. So, when a film says the character has attained a higher level of power, the audience has no frame of reference to use as said characters have been god-like all along. Also, killing a God should be impossible for obvious reasons. I’d say look to Dr. Strange on how to handle fighting Gods with aplomb.

My sliver of advice to any moviegoer would be to manage expectations while walking into watch this film. It is most definitely a good film with a lot of personality, charm, and effervescence while also falling prey to the many cliches that accompany films of this genre.

P.S. – A 94% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes is great to look at and all that but to use the website to your advantage and to gauge the actual quality of a film, check this little line under the tomatometer titled RATING. It gives you the actual decimal score of the film on a scale of 10, that might act as a more accurate representation of the film’s overall standard.

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Baywatch: Come For The Boobs and The Biceps, Stay For The Bullshit and Boredom

Baywatch: Come For The Boobs and The Biceps, Stay For The Bullshit and Boredom

Baywatch is a 2017 action comedy directed by Seth Gordon, written by Damian Shannon, Mark Swift, Jay Scherick, David Ronn, Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant and stars Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, Alexandra Daddario, David Hasselhoff, Priyanka Chopra, Ilfenesh Hadera and Kelly Rohrbach. The film follows the Baywatch crew as they attempt to stop a drug trading real estate baron from taking over the beach.

Look, I did not go into this movie expecting it to be a masterpiece in comedy. Frankly, I do not care about the hypersexualization of the men and women onscreen. We know what this movie is about and if we choose to be triggered by that, tough cookies for said trigger happy folk. The simplest problem with this film is that it’s not good. It’s not funny. it’s not compelling, it’s not entertaining, it’s just not good.

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You know what, I know that this is a stupid popcorn movie and I’m supposed to turn my brain off while watching it but I’ll ask the collective internet or the filmmakers themselves if they ever run into this essay, a question:

If there were packs of drugs washing up on the beach/in possession of beachgoers on a regular basis, why do we not inform the cops or the coast guard and have them on patrol? Could they not start an investigation themselves? It’s not like the Baywatch crew solved the case in a day. I’m sure the DEA would love to hear about this. People have been killed for lesser crimes.

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I’m just *deep breath* I don’t know what to say when 6 screenwriters sit at a table and this is the best they could come up with. This is the least compelling/entertaining role The Rock has even been in. He is just jock lifeguard guy who doles out big speeches with his big muscles and what else. Seriously, what is his character? I concede that he is not a “great” actor but he needs something to work with. Slapping him on your movie doesn’t make it good.

Zac Efron is the only person who has some sort of character arc no matter how flat it falls. Most everyone else is on the payroll to be eye candy. The three girls are extremely interchangeable. One sentence sums up all 3 “beautiful girls, who are nice and are “strong” female characters because they “save” lives”. And then comes the absolute worst character of the bunch, the comic relief “fat” guy.

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Now look, I’m not a good basketball player. I’m not tall enough, I’m not strong enough, I’m not talented enough, I’m not that guy. So would the Golden State Warriors draft me onto their team because I trialed for them every year without any significant improvement in my skill set? NO. I’m not worth the place on the team because I’m going to take a spot away from a truly worthy guy who put in years of hard work to learn the craft and to condition his body to match the cut-off limits the sport requires. This film pretends that “heart” is all you need to be a man who is tasked with saving lives on a daily basis. I mean, HOW? Don’t forget that the film teaches the perfectly real and relevant lesson that “if you do a good deed, you’ll be rewarded with a hot girl who’ll have sex with you”.

I’m sure I’ve got my point across by now. The film is a cheap ploy to wrangle money from a few horny people who don’t remember that they have access to free porn or True Detective (if you know, you know). Priyanka Chopra’s considerable talent is completely wasted, the source material is trash anyway and Alexandra Daddario’s magnetic eyes can only distract me so long from the steaming pile of poorly rendered CG garbage unfolding on-screen.

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The Rock: The Michael Bay Movie We Deserve

The Rock: The Michael Bay Movie We Deserve

The Rock is a 1996 action film directed by Michael Bay, written by David Weisberg, Douglas S. Cook, and Mark Rosner and stars Sean Connery, Nicolas Cage, Ed Harris, Michael Biehn and William Forsythe. The film follows the story of an FBI chemist and a former SAS Captain as they attempt to stop a group of rogue US Marines from unleashing multiple rockets filled with VX gas on San Fransisco.

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So let’s address the elephant in the room. “Welcome to The Rock” is what Dwayne Johnson says when he brings a woman to his bedroom right?

Alright, moving along.

Once the end credits started to roll, I had but one thought. Why did I like this film as much as I did? I know the plot is preposterous. I know Nic Cage didn’t throw in a crazy Nic Cage performance (which would have made this movie infinitely more enjoyable). I know every action scene is cut to death, I know all that and much more. So, why didn’t I hate it? I zeroed in on an answer a second after I asked myself those questions. The answer is

*drum roll please*

I did not think of any of those things while watching the movie.

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As simple as that, the movie was so fantastically paced that I had no time to think about any of those issues. I was completely engaged starting minute 1. Ed Harris was busy chewing scenes up for breakfast and his motivations alone had me wired in. I was too busy taking that one breath of air in the segues that I dared not to take my eyes off the screen. What happened to this Michael Bay? Is it his doing that this film plays as well as it does or is the uncredited script rewrites done by Sorkin and Tarantino that make the film as compelling as it is? I truly don’t know nor do I care.

It is one of the very few big dumb action movies which is smart enough and dumb enough in equal measure that the tightrope act it does while not falling into either extreme makes it truly enjoyable popcorn schlock. The plot is simple. The actors suit their roles. Some of the scenes are tense as fuck. Strangely enough, there is a good deal of emotional resonance to it. And also, having a few shades of A Few Good Men make this film oddly relatable.

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I keep myself away from big action spectacles for the most part because I dread one simple thing. Most action films have downtime between scenes where the action and plot come to a grinding halt as the film goes out of its way to infuse its characters with some “traits”. And most of the time, the character development is not strong or interesting enough for me to care about it. I slowly sit back in my chair and think about the plot thus far and that is when I start deconstructing the film while watching its most boring moments. More often than not, said film eats itself alive and stops being compelling. A recent example of that very phenomenon would be Guardians of The Galaxy Vol. 2.

The Rock does no such thing. I knew what I was getting into. The film delivered action and thrills in spades. The character moments are deftly woven in with well-executed action sequences and most of all, the sheer kinetic energy propelling the plot makes me smile like an idiot child while watching the film. I know we’ve lost Michael Bay to studio mandated cash grabs but it is fun to reminisce about a time when he was one of our most promising action directors.

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Flipped: When Teen Romance Meets Sin City

Flipped: When Teen Romance Meets Sin City

Flipped is a 2010 romantic comedy directed by Rob Reiner, written by Rob Reiner and Andrew Scheinman, based on the book of the same name by Wendelin Van Draanen and stars Madeline Carroll, Callan McAuliffe, Rebecca De Mornay, Anthony Edwards, John Mahoney, Penelope Ann Miller and Aidan Quinn. The film follows the lives of two kids, who grow up to be teens, as we look at the world through both their perspectives.

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Back when I was a young whippersnapper, I had an idea while watching a film. I thought to myself, “Why do we not show the deep lying emotions of every character in a story?”. The film I was watching was moderately heavy on narration and it made sense to me that I could clearly understand everything I needed to know about the characters because it was spelled out for me so clearly. And then I grew up.

Years later, when I could watch a pegi-18 film, I ran into this widely loved but clearly gimmicky film titled Sin City. The film had two primary selling points. One being its stylized visuals and the other was its overtly comic book-ish narrative style. There were rarely any moments of conveying character motivations via clever scene structure. Characters were established through expository dialogue or by the use of the supposed “crutch” of screenwriting, background narration. Is this an effective method to tell a story? Yes, when it is not the sole point of ingenuity propelling the film.

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I can put my finger on why a film like this would get made. The saying “A sucker is born every minute comes to mind”. Not to say that I am above being a sucker, I love the very obscure Emma Roberts film “Wild Child”. I watched it at the right age and at the right time. Now, even though I know the film is bad, I can rarely be bothered by its flaws because of how intricately it’s linked to my adoration of cinema. Flipped could work for an audience member who has not been exposed to fresh narrative styles. As it contains a paint-by-numbers romance plot which most viewers would easily forget, one could find him/herself engaged by the methodology used to unfurl the story.

The film is shot, directed, edited and scored competently enough. The emotions are only at the surface and some of the characters are just plain caricatures. The emotional resonance is there if you look for it. The film will not, however, pull you in by the scruff of your neck. Not Rob Reiner’s best work. There is an inherent been-there-done-that feeling the film exudes. It is inescapable. Not to say that I predicted every plot point the film had on offer, but one can easily see emotional peaks and troughs the film has coming from a mile away.

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This is not a bad film. One can quite easily have an okay 90 minutes with it playing in the background. But I see that as a problem. It does not aspire to be something better. It does not try to elevate itself from its derivative subject matter apart from having a “fresh” structure. I’m cautiously confident that if a person were to watch Flipped and Sin City in succession, a person would walk away with memories of the latter as this film would disappear into the deep recesses of most viewer’s minds because of its palpable unoriginality.

Primer: The Film Neil Breen Wants To Make (If You Know, You Know)

Primer: The Film Neil Breen Wants To Make (If You Know, You Know)

Primer is a 2004 sci-fi drama written, directed, edited, scored *deep breath* produced and starring Shane Carruth. It also stars David Sullivan, Casey Gooden and Anand Upadhyaya. The film follows the life of two friends who are also entrepreneurs as they accidentally discover time travel.

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There are two ways to watch Primer:

  1. Go into it fully blind as you’d do with any movie and hope to god that you “figure” everything out
  2. Do what I did.

30 minutes into watching the film, I stopped and read through the film’s Wikipedia page. I know that going in knowing the plot of a film is heresy to any “real” fan of cinema but I had to make a choice. I was quite enjoying the character drama unfolding in front of me and I knew that my personal investment was with the characters than with the plot progression itself. I knew the basics. The two leads had invented the time machine and were feeling their way into figuring out what to do with it. That is all I needed to know. Anything I personally figured out over the course of the film (which was a lot, surprisingly enough, putting my engineering degree to good use here) was a bonus.

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I was extremely intrigued by the character work and score of the film. We live in a world that inhabits many men and women who are constantly doing their best to be entrepreneurs. All of us realise that “jobs” are not the way to go because out of 50 people in an office, only 1 gets to stand on top of the proverbial mountain. We want to be our own bosses and leave our marks on the world while we exploit our ideas in the process. This is quite possibly the exact same character arc the very excellent film “The Social Network” presents. The primary driving force of the film are the characters and their relationships.

For a film shot on a budget of $7000, it’s executed marvellously. There are so many unique editing and directing tricks at play here. The film flows so very smoothly and the ominous feeling of “this is not all great” is palpable with almost every shot. The film does look grainy and unpolished but I feel it adds to the story and overall aura more than take away from it in any way. We have been subject to this well-shared picture on our FaceBook walls where we are shown the humble origins of multi-billion dollar corporations such as Apple, Microsoft, Google, Infosys etc. This film revels in maintaining that level of authenticity.

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Even though I can’t help but praise the film for its many merits, I did find a few paradoxes in its storytelling (tell me I’m too dumb to get the film’s intelligence) and also it commits the sin of creating convenient conflict to propel it towards its climactic sequence. The final sequences seem rushed, forced, contrived and many such synonyms one uses to describe those events.

Coming back from that jarring and quite off-tone paragraph, Primer is the kind of film run-of-the-mill indie movies try to be. But what Primer has that most others don’t is an unpretentious look at budding entrepreneurs. I see no ego associated with the film. I see myself or my friends in it. I see real people. If I were to create a time machine, I would much rather use it to earn money or make my life better than think about the moral implications its use comes with and that one reason is enough for me to revisit this movie down the line.

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Lens: A Movie of Two Halves (Originality and Cliches)

Lens: A Movie of Two Halves (Originality and Cliches)

Lens is a 2017 Tamil thriller written and directed by Jayaprakash Radhakrishnan and stars Jayaprakash Radhakrishnan, Anand Sami, Ashwathy Lal and Misha Ghoshal. This film has one of the mot interesting premises I’ve ever heard. One man commands another to watch his suicide live on Skype. Failure to do so would result in the former leaking the internet history of the latter. DAMN!

All I knew about the film before walking into the cinema was that logline. I was intrigued to the highest degree and prepared myself for a super tense and taut thriller. Does the film deliver on its initial promise? Yes and No, in that exact order. The film has an exquisitely fun first act. We have an everyday tech dude having Skype sex with a random woman. We have creepy antagonist guy who tricks the tech guy into thinking he’s another horny girl and lures him into the primary plot of the film. So far, so good.

AND THEN.

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What begins are a thought proving setup about the dangers of the internet quickly devolves into some ham-fisted commentary about the evils people indulge in over the world wide web.

Watching Lens, to me, feels like an exercise in checking in on your own perversions and nothing else. Not what you and I put out there to the world to seem “normal” in our circles but what we do in dark shady corner of our homes assuming no one is watching us. When left to one’s devices with the added bonus of consequence-free existences, human beings are capable of very dark things. Lens as a film attempts to explore that side of things. My concerns lay with how the film does its exploration.

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The film’s intriguing premise sorely lacks character work required to fill it with personality. The film works as a cautionary tale to the most “technologically illiterate”. I’m not going to sit here on a high horse and call myself a tech guru but I would also like to assume that I would have a few fail-safes if I were to indulge in unsavoury activities. Movies have rarely been able to understand the complexities of technology, let alone the real dangers it actually poses to humanity. A randomly named fake account can only keep your activities private to a very small degree if you do not take the most minimal of precautions to use a browser that masks your IP or at the very least turn your Chrome browser to its inbuilt incognito mode. Little things like this bug me as much as fake typing/hacking as portrayed by multiple “tech savvy” films.

Coming back from that extremely distracting tangent, the film suffers from possessing wholly one-dimensional characters. Yes, one needs to the message across while making a socially conscious film but the message coming off the film has been drilled into our collective heads for the longest time. The film Sivaji has an offhanded joke made about this exact phenomenon and that film happened in 2006. So, again, apart from a compelling premise, the film does not have much going for it.

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I do not mean to belittle the plight of a person who is unwillingly involved in a scandal via an unlawful breach of privacy, but there are ways to tell this story without being hammy. One of the characters is named so awfully and is written to be so sympathetic that it took me out of the film entirely.

“Good guys” needn’t always be perfect to the extremes and there are better ways of dealing with breach of privacy than locking yourself in a claustrophobic space. This film rubs me the wrong way because, in our so-called modern society, we teach our young ladies that people who commit crimes against them are the ones who need to be ashamed as the ladies themselves aren’t in the wrong.

Conceding to the fact that each and every person deals with grief differently, a film is a work of fiction. One does not need to perpetuate an “old wine in new bottles” version of the age-old perception that women need to hide and feel inadequate when confronted by crimes against them. As a small change, I would have liked this film so much more if she lived her life with her head held high even after a traumatic incident (BECAUSE IT WAS NOT HER FAULT) and was killed because of additional acts of evil the society forced upon her which she could not physically escape from. A variant of the bland societal commentary this film has on offer could have been excessively more impactful.

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I do give props to the whole crew of this film for trying something fresh and talking about a topic most people rarely would but all I ask for is some technological literacy and research when one attempts to make a tech-centric film. Because, I swear to God, I could have ripped this film to shreds for some of the idiocy it has going on.

Alien Covenant: Why You No Explore Great Concepts?

Alien Covenant: Why You No Explore Great Concepts?

Alien Covenant is a 2017 sci-fi horror film directed by Ridley Scott, written by John Logan, Dante Harper, Jack Paglen and Michael Green and stars Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Carmen Ejogo, and Demián Bichir. The film follows the crew of The Covenant as they deviate from their search for a substitute Earth.

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SPOILERS AHEAD

Alien Covenant is another one in the long line of movies which frustrate me. This is a film of two stories and one of them is clearly better than the other. The film narrates this interesting story with the sort of elan that only Ridley Scott can attain. But, every time things get interesting, we are shown a cheap scene with a kinda-sorta Xenomorph which ruins that exceptional idea, the mood, the tone and most importantly “the tension”.

David (the android from Prometheus), can still think for himself. He wiped out all the engineers with that black substance (robbing humanity of the chance of meeting their creators), infected Shaw (Noomi Rapace’s character) with it and wants to be the sole creator of a superior species. That should have the primary and only plot of the film. I would pay all the money in my wallet at this time to watch a film with that premise done well. A reviewer likened this premise to the story of Satan himself. Why do we not want to explore the story of Satan again? Why are we reminded of his useless minions?

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I do not understand why this film needed Xenomorphs to run around and kill people. Xenomorphs, it pains me to say this, are not scary anymore. The rules for engagement with them have changed drastically with every new film. I stick by the notion that once you show me a Xenomorph in a well-lit area, it stops being scary because it’s just an overgrown rat with acid for blood. A few well-placed bullets kill it. People have space ships and machine guns and struggle to handle one overgrown rat which does not bother hiding anymore.

As it is a staple of every film in the Alien franchise, the scientists or explorers or whatever they are, are just the worst people ever. I hate the fact that in every film, they make the same bloody mistakes. Oh, he looks at the volcanic face hugger hideout. He touches it like a dingus because fuck you. And now he has been infected by it and will give birth to a Xenomorph. God damn it. The recycled scenes (the chest burster is now a head and neck and back buster) and reused tropes are tiresome at this point. Amazingly, the film does not have the great cinematography to gloss over the blatant nonsense. Disappointing.

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There were a host of things I enjoyed about the film and all of those began and ended with Michael Fassbender (the man can do no wrong, except for Assasins Creed). He and his character were the best part of Prometheus and without a shadow of a doubt, a similar sentiment can be echoed here. While Prometheus kept up with the heady concepts and compelling character arcs, this movie is just a regular slasher film in space.

Even though Prometheus was unsatisfying, I like it plenty because of the new direction the film had, seemingly, taken with the franchise at large. It made me ask questions of the plot and stayed in my head for ages because of how open to interpretation it was. This film is just not good enough for me. Throwing away so many great plot points (where did the black goo come from, why did the planet from Prometheus have statues of the Alien queen and that giant head even before the first Alien was created, why did the Engineers create and ultimately hate humans, so many more) and characters (The bloody Engineers) for this hackneyed trite annoys me.

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