The Amazing Spider-Man : Reboots swing into action

The season of reboots is here. And The Amazing Spider-Man kicks it off quite nicely. From the very first scene where the young Peter Parker goes searching for his father while playing hide and seek, you know immediately that this movie is not going to be like Sam Raimi’s trilogy where Tobey Maguire plays a rather un-sure version of Peter Parker. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying the earlier trilogy was bad. It’s just that TASM is much more…grown up.

The story is the one that we’ve heard for years. Peter loses his parents, gets bitten by a radioactive spider, Uncle Ben gets killed, Peter becomes Spider-Man. But what is expectedly yet refreshingly different is the execution. And that is where the director Marc Webb (notice the last name) comes to play. He takes the tried and tested story and gives it just that little extra to make sure the audience doesn’t go “oh we’ve seen it all before”. And so Peter Parker’s interest in photography (remember his role in the Daily Bugle?) is subtly hinted at right from the beginning, he wanders around always accompanied by his skateboard (the skills of which will later help him as Spider-Man) and he has no qualms of wearing his school backpack or answering a call from Aunt May while he’s perched on top of a high-rise building asking him to pick up eggs on his way back.

Andrew Garfield is a rebel without a comb. Ever since his outing in The Social Network, he’s been marked as someone who’s got brilliance material woven into him. The comfort with which he stammers around Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy or how his eyes well up while talking to Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) about his parents, Garfield forces you, quite effectively, to feel a connect to the character.

But that’s kind of where the actors stop being brilliant. Emma Stone is decent with her portrayal (for those of you who think Gwen Stacy wasn’t in the earlier Spidey movies, she was. Remember her?), Rhys Ifans as Dr. Curtis Conners is commendable and nothing more, Irrfan Khan has too little a screen-time but makes it work nonetheless (will he be the Green Goblin in the next movie?? Fingers crossed) and Sally Field as Aunt May is forgettable. I guess this was always meant to be Andrew Garfield’s movie than anyone else. But it wouldn’t have hurt to want to look forward to what some other character might do in the next movie.

There are some amazing moments in TASM that must be pointed out. First up, if you are watching the movie in anything less than 3D, you are not doing it justice. Unlike many other movies that are ‘converted’, this one’s is shot totally in 3D. And the result is high on visual awesomeness. Secondly, this has to be my favorite Stan Lee cameo ever. The symbolism of how he’s created characters that can fight and live it out in the background on their own and not affect the metaphorical music of his life is not missed.

To sum it up, the purists would be very happy with what Webb has presented to the audience. There are enough minor details that the fanboys can get excited about and explain in detail to the muggles.


Rating: 7/10


The Dark Knight Rises : A fanboy’s expectations

The Dark Knight Rises is undeniably one of the most highly anticipated and awaited movies in the history of cinema. Having been a huge Batman fan long before Nolan managed to make it relatable to the general audience, I have personally been counting down days and having constant “focused discussions” with other fan boys about what we can expect from the movie and how its epic-ness will transcend boundaries – much to the amusement and a little annoyance of the non-fanboys friends around me.

To be fair, being highly biased to the character and the original comic book stories, it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to do a review of the movie here after it releases on July 20th. But that is not going to stop me from posting something about the movie and the character.

I’ve been one of those guys who’s been tracking any news about the movie, watching fan-made trailers, amateur phone-captured vides of the making, all TV spots and trailers and reading any interview given by the cast members that I could come across. Based on all of this, I’ve tried to create a small list of items that I’m guessing would be in the movie. So here goes:

The party-pooper: If you recall the previous two Batman movies – Batman Begins & The Dark Knight – you might remember how things tend to go haywire every time Bruce Wayne throws a party. In Batman Begins, his birthday party is interrupted by Ra’s Al Ghul & his League of Shadows who leave the Wayne manor burned to the ground. Later when Bruce tries to throw another party in The Dark Knight to show his support to Harvey Dent, the Joker makes an appearance looking for Bats and then proceeds to throw Rachel Dawes off the building.

Going by the trailers of TDKR it looks like Bruce is entertaining a lot of people in his re-constructed manor when Selina Kyle warns him about an impending “storm”. Would be no surprise if this is where we see the first faceoff between the good and the evil.

The line-stealer: Nolan has an evident interest in bringing things full circle. Some vague reference one of his characters might have made in the beginning of the movie might come back as a major turning point by the time the movie has finished. For people who’ve watched his previous movies (Memento, The Prestige, Inception) more than once, you are now fairly used to this. One of the ways Nolan does this, and very effectively at that, is with the use of specific dialogues. In Batman Begins, Thomas Wayne’s “Why do we fall? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up” line in the young Bruce’s early flashback scenes is masterfully rendered again by Alfred Pennyworth when he rescues Bruce from the burning manor and they take the service elevator down to the Batcave. Here’s what I think we can expect in TDKR –

The first time Batman visits Gordon at his house in Batman Begins, his first line to Gordon is “Storm’s coming”. Selina Kyle purrs this again to Bruce adding a little touch to it “There’s a storm coming..”

I am hoping they bring back some brilliant lines from the previous two movie like Falcone’s “This is a world you’ll never understand. And you always fear what you don’t understand” or maybe even The Joker’s legendary “This is what happens when an unstoppable force, meets an immovable object”

The dot-connector: There’s sufficient reports floating around on the internet to confidently say that Ra’s Al Ghul’s daughter, Talia Al Ghul is to make an appearance in the movie and that she’ll probably have a key role to play. What I’d personally like to see are some more dots being connected. Do you remember this blonde kid from the first movie? He tells Batman that his friends wouldn’t believe him when he says Batman is real. Batman throws him one of his gadgets to help him make his friends believe. Now we’ve seen Joseph Gordon-Levitt joined TDKR cast. It’d be cool if he’s the same blonde kid who’s grown up.

Also, Scarecrow has been a regular in Nolan’s Batman. And he’s known to work with chemicals. Could it be that Bane’s pain-relieving compound, which he has to constantly inhale to stay alive, has passed through Scarecrows hands at some point of its development?

Lastly, in the first movie, Bruce Wayne is imprisoned in Bhutan and Ducard asks him to pluck a blue flower from the base of a mountain and then climb it to begin his ninja training. It’d be interesting if Bruce has to go back to Bhutan and climb a mountain yet again to recover from Bane’s assault on him.

The surprises: Let no one ever say that Nolan does not keep the audience on its toes always. There are going to be some excellent surprises and reveals in TDKR for sure. Here’re some obvious one and some that I hope they include

  • Batman breaks one of his rules and comes out during the day
  • Ra’s Al Ghul is resurrected using a Lazarus pit
  • Bruce falls in love with Miranda Tate (only to be betrayed)
  • Someone other than Bruce Wayne dons the Batsuit
  • The League of Shadows has a role in ‘making’ Bane

Finally, like the previous movies, I’m sure there are going to be some kick-ass dialogues that will keep floating around in the virtual world long after the movie’s release. A lot of these dialogues, like the celebrated “Why so serious?” might not be much when read simply, but stays with you forever once you’ve watched the movie.

The trailers and TV spots have already given us quite a few of such lines from TDKR already, like the before-mentioned “There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne”, or Alfred’s explanation of Bane’s origins – “Born and raised in hell on earth” and even Lucius Fox’s comical “Remember where you parked?”.

But I believe, the one that will take the proverbial cake has already been delivered to the audience by Tom Hardy’s Bane –  “Let the games begin!”

Shanghai: A Bitter Aftertaste

I tried my best to control my expectations. I knew that Shanghai is the fourth offering of Dibakar Banerjee after ‘Khosla ka Ghosla’, ‘Oye Lucky Lucky Oye’ and ‘Love, Sex aur Dhokha’. I knew that Abhay Deol hardly ever goes wrong with the choice of his script and movies. I knew that Emraan Hashmi will be seen in a never-seen—before avatar. I knew it all, yet I tried to control my expectations. Then I read the reviews by other critics today morning. And I failed myself. I will never know what difference it’d have made had I seen Shanghai without reading the reviews.

Yes, Shanghai is a well-shot movie. Nikos Andritsakis, who had previously shot LSD, has done a really good job. Yes, Emraan Hashmi proves that he is more than just a lucky bugger with luckier lips. Yes, Farooque Shaikh is absolutely brilliant as usual. But as I came out of the movie hall, it just didn’t feel right. There was a faintly bitter aftertaste. I really wanted to love Shanghai. If only it had given me enough reasons.

Okay, so Shanghai is a political thriller, a genre that Indian cinema has hardly been able to master in spite of having so much ‘material’ floating all around. IBP wants to set up an International Business Park and convert the fictional town of ‘Bharatnagar’ into Shanghai. The proverbial bone in the flesh is Dr. Ali Ahmedi (Prosenjit Chatterjee, underutilized) who is bumped off. Dr. Ahmedi’s ex-student/ex-flame Shalini (Kalki) strongly believes that there is a conspiracy behind the seemingly simple looking accident and Joginder Parmar (Emraan Hashmi, Impressive), a moonlighting pornographer, claims that he can help her out. In the form of a one-man inquiry commission, a young IAS officer T.A. Krishnan (Abhay Deol, miscast) is thrown into the pool as a damage control measure by the state Chief Minister. What happens next comes at a price of movie ticket.

So what’s wrong with the movie? Well, for one I found the pacing of the story very languid. Nothing much happens and, except for the last 10 minutes, most of it is quite predictable. The connections between the central government, the state government and the IBP are never made clear. I also felt that too much was left to be understood through inference; a task very difficult when you are in a theater with 70 other people, most of who have already lost interest or are busy pacifying their toddlers. I fail to understand why any director except Anurag Kashyap would want to hire Kalki. She looks the same, cries  the same, falls on her knees the same and cries even more the same in every movie! I also felt that Abhay Deol was miscast in the role. Dibakar should have taken a gamble that RGV took with Mohanlal in Company. Let a South Indian play a South Indian. I wonder how Vikram, Suriya or even Siddharth would have been in this role.

The film definitely has its moments. Some of the characters are outstanding. Supriya Pathak Kapur, Pitobash and Farooque Shaikh deserve special mention. The background score is marvelous. The story is intelligent (but too intelligent, eventually). Dibakar Banerjee must have decided at the very outset that the political characters or instances will not be reminiscent of any poltical party or person. He succeeds; I could neither identify nor could I identify with any of the political twists in this political thriller.

All in all, Shanghai comes across a tad undercooked. I beg to differ with most of the critics out there. This is definitely not Dibakar Banerjee’s best movie.

Rating: 5/10

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