Les just not be only Friendz – Brief Review

Romance novels are currently a rage in India and Vikash Sharma enters into the market with his first book, “Les Just Not Be Only Friends”. The first part of a trilogy, Sharma builds a love story between two regular people. While that is the USP as per the book cover, the real strength of the novel lies in the grounded attention to detail. The author definitely is well-verse with the areas the story is set-in and the fallible characters are relatable.
The usage of Hindi lines in between may not be liked by everyone and there are occasional grammatical errors that needs to be corrected in following books. While the characters failed to make me care for them, the story did manage to make me turn the pages. The drawback of the book is that while it is not bad, it ain’t good enough either to stay once it is done. Yet, it did want me to read the second part when it’s out. For a first book, it is a decent start and the second book will show how much Sharma has improved.
Book cover – 3/5
Language – 2.5/5
Overall – 3/5

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Featured Image source – Amazon

The Fate of the Furious Review – The ride keeps getting better

The Fast and the Furious movie franchise was never supposed to last an unbelievable 8 movies with more to come. They were supposed to be clash of egos between men who settle things by racing in fast cars. The first three parts lack much coherence in terms of storytelling and the movies stick to this plot with entertainment factor involved. However, the fourth part signalled a change.

A smart story provided progress for the characters while setting up a family vibe that helped turn the car-racing theme into a heist one for the next 3 parts. Yes, they still involved cars but the action started scaling up, characters from the previous movies started getting connected to the story and the addition of The Rock was a major plus.

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These heist episodes concluded in the 7th part, with an extremely well-written and emotional exit for the deceased Paul Walker’s character Brian O’Conner, one of the two main protagonists of the series along with Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto.

So, when the current movie was announced, there were doubts hanging over how the franchise can cope on losing one of their most important characters and boy, did they do well! It was a clever decision from the makers to move from the heist concept to the spy genre. This continuous evolution is the prime reason the franchise refuses to slow down.

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Dom’s betrayal of the team created enough buzz and anticipation for the movie and it puts the team’s whole concept of family in question as their leader turns rogue. This leads to some wonderful character development for the team in various ways and allows for the entry of Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw into the fold, who played the antagonist in the last outing.

Statham has a wonderful time in the film and his chemistry with The Rock’s character Luke Hobbs is one to look out for.  The best part about the franchise continue to be the way the story connects to the previous ones giving fans real pay-offs, while ensuring first-time audience do not feel out of place.

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One of the hallmarks of this series has been its action sequences. Be it the personal fights between The Rock and Vin Diesel, between Michelle Rodriguez’s Letty and MMA fighters Gina Carano and Ronda Rousey or the high-octane action scenes (that always involve cars) which look incredible on the screen. Every movie in fact, leaves you with one such sequence on a minimum. In this aspect, the eighth installment does not disappoint as the jail scenes involving The Rock and Statham are shot superbly and the climax involving a submarine would have made Matthew Reilly proud (He is the only pure high-octane action thriller writer I know). A special mention to The Rock’s fight scenes as the background score further enhances the physical marvel he is.

submarine

The movie definitely suffers a hiccup in terms of the twists as most of them can be sensed beforehand barring one or two. A spy thriller requires a stronger screenplay and with respect to that, the movie falters a bit.This prevents the movie from becoming a top spy thriller but then it never tried to become the ultimate heist thriller in the previous films either. Ultimately, the story is all about family and high-octane sequences that involve some really fast or huge cars. The shifting genres are present to provide a necessary wrinkle that prevents the movies from becoming repetitive while giving options to visualize and perform new mind-boggling stunts on-screen.

The one area where the movie shows the franchise’s growth is the drama front. As mentioned earlier, the previous movies were as simple as one could imagine and Paul Walker’s retirement last year was the biggest emotional punch due to obvious reasons. Barring Vin Diesel’s near deaths in the climaxes of recent parts, the drama quotient is comparatively less and understandably so. However, The Fate of the Furious has an unexpected depth to the extent that we see Vin Diesel cry (yeah, the big man can cry).

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Those little elements that add to the drama lead to a wonderful pay-off in the climax as a few heart-tugging moments are created. Herein lies the secret of the franchise – constant evolution. At no point does the movie or the series looks to be ageing, rather it is in peak form. There is a certain comfort and understanding of the characters and their roles given the number of films and the constant unexpected deaths along with great additions ( The Rock in Fast Five and Jason Statham in Fast and Furious 7) make the ride better.

Tyrese Gibson constantly provides the right dose of humour, Chris Bridges plays his brother at work, mechanic and techie along with recent entrant Nathalie Emmanuel superbly. Michelle Rodriguez is the First Lady and a tough yet experienced part of the crew.  Charlize Theron plays the ice-cold antagonist Cipher while Helen Mirren and Scott Eastwood join the franchise as well. Paul Walker is referenced when explanations are needed regarding his absence despite the immediate need and a few more explanations, including one involving the nuclear submarine in the end are needed and those loose ends are tied up well. Further, Paul Walker’s character Brian O’Connor’s soul is provided continuity as well.

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In the end, The Fast and The Furious 8 is a worthy addition to the franchise and does well to move beyond the loss of Paul Walker, while opening up opportunities for the rumoured spin-offs. If you are a fan of the franchise, then you are gonna become a bigger one. On the other hand, if you are looking for some good popcorn action blockbuster, the movie provides that too.

A few fast furious observations

  • The way The Rock’s vehicle leads the remaining cars keeps reminding of Transformers with Optimus Prime’s trucks leading the remaining members.
  • This franchise is now very similar to the Marvel with superb character dynamics, likeable additions, pushing boundaries (in the racing genre in this case) and great action with the difference being these people are more human and therefore more relatable.
  • The Rock’s and Statham’s bromance is one of the best parts of the film and one to look forward to if the rumours regarding the spin-off are true.

 

The images taken from http://www.fastandfurious.com

©Saketh Ayyagari. All rights reserved.

The Undertaker’s Last Ride

There is something about fantasy heroes that connects with people, especially when we grow up revering them. I have started watching WWE in and around the Attitude Era and at that age it was the skill, power and intensity of the wrestling on display that excited me. However, as I grew up, I started understanding the full meaning of Sports Entertainment. Now, I consider it to be like any other TV show, with the stark difference being there are no second takes and despite the safety measures, the wrestlers actually put their bodies on the line.
As a self-professed Shawn Michaels fan, I definitely did not see this coming. As Roman Reigns claimed his win over the Deadman and walked away, the crowd showered their appreciation on one of the greatest workers ever. However, when the Phenom decided this was his Last Ride and with his theme playing in the background, he removed his gloves, then folded his coat and placed them at the centre of the ring along with his hat, the emotion was just too much to bear.
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(Image courtesy – Postard)
When Shawn Michaels retired at WrestleMania 26 after failing to overcome Taker at the Showcase of Immortals for a second time, the wrestling geek in me died a bit that day. I took a sabbatical from watching the sport until a new era came in a few years later. Despite knowing Michaels was very likely gonna lose as Taker still had his undefeated streak going on then, saying goodbye to the greatest story-teller in the ring after giving his all in two epic matches at WrestleMania 25 and 26 was really hard to take. But not this hard.
The Undertaker’s retirement has been a constant point of discussion in recent years as all the years of fighting gimmick matches and putting his body on the line had battered his body and he could wrestle only one match per year. Further, the quality of the matches suffered as well with Taker unable to match his dance partners anymore. With the Undertaker still expected to have that dream match with John Cena, this year’s clash with Reigns was supposed to be another Mania match.
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(Image courtesy – WWE WrestleMania Twitter account)
The match in itself was unworthy of a main-event as Taker struggled badly once Roman speared him through the announced table, that included a major botched spot where the Big Dog tried to reverse Taker’s finishing move, the Tombstone Piledriver and failed despite making 3 attempts. Reigns did his best to carry the Deadman, but could not save the match. Thoughts started swirling in my mind on why this is the reason Taker should retire. When Taker exactly did that at the end, I could not fathom the tears streaming out.
Here was a man who has fought for more than 25 years in WWE, thrilling fans with his matches, sending chills up the spine with his entrance and never ever bothered about the spotlight, despite being the most respected man in the business. It just dawned on me that Taker’s true strength is in telling a story, he is half the reason Shawn Michaels had those epic matches before his retirement and in a flash, I knew I will miss him.
(Video courtesy – WWE YouTube Channel)
As he went down the ring, broke character to share a moment with his wife, walked back, made the half-turn and raised his hand one final time, more than a decade full of memories flashed in front of my eyes. In those final moments of seeing Mark Calaway as the Undertaker, I realized that he was there all along, doing his part in putting on great matches, building the greatest streak in sports entertainment and utterly dedicating his life to maintaining the myth and aura around the character.
Maybe that was why every wrestling fan in the stadium and around the world could not control themselves as the feeling sunk in, the Undertaker has fought his last match.
There is no doubt that the legend of the Undertaker will live on for generations and there will never ever be such a character in any book, TV show or movies ever.
Thank you Taker.
Rest.In.Peace.
The content copyrights belong to me i.e. Saketh Ayyagari©
Featured Image courtesy – WWE Twitter account
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A-Z tag – MY Tigress special!

It has been pretty long since I have done a challenge post. So, thank you Karthika for the nomination. I have done an A-Z challenge prior to this, but this is a different one. And I am adding a twist of my own by talking about the A-Z of MY Tigress, instead of mine.

Pardon me for any misspelt words in this post.

So, without further ado, here they come –

A – Always

B – Beautiful (in every way I could hope!)

C – Caring ( mom level and beyond)

D – Dreamer

E – Expressive

F – Foodie

G – Golgappe (Pani Puri)

H – Huggsie

I – Interesting (max)

J – Juve

K – Kompletes

L – Loving (extremely)

M – Mad

N – Nautanki

O -Organized ( or not?)

P – Pinky finger

Q – Queen of Hearts

R – Romantic (a hopeless one too)

S – Sweet (as sweet as a Bong sweet)

T – Tolerant

U – Understanding

V – Very smart

W – Writer extraordinaire (the most beautiful there is)

X – Xerox soul (A very colourful xerox)

Y – Yamotional

Z – Zabardast

Well, it just occurred to me that 26 letters of the alphabet are not sufficient, but then whoever discovered the alphabets must have met someone for whom 26 were sufficient. Not for me for I need more to describe MY Tigress, so some day I will create a new language or extra alphabets!

Coming to my nominations, I nominate

Misstalkaholic

Arti

Thanks a lot Karthika for the tag!

YNWA

Note – The featured image is reproduced from Dreamworks Animation.

The content copyrights belong to me i.e. Saketh Ayyagari!

Kong: Skull Island Review – All hail the King of Apes!

When Godzilla was rebooted in 2014 as an ancient force of nature, it was a well-written film as to the very existence of Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism (MUTO) and how they still exist to maintain nature’s balance. The movie did extremely well to intertwine the human element to the grander action and it worked perfectly.
So, the excitement was natural when King Kong was also going to be rebooted in a similar fashion and it got better with the announcement of a shared MonsterVerse. Kong directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts maintains the good parts of Godzilla i.e. powerful showcasing of the monster, as much logical explanations as one can expect and the human element constantly being a strong driving factor in the film.
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The movie occurs in 1973 when the existence of an unknown island comes to the fore and a team is assembled to study the island. Mayhem breaks loose and the story takes a familiar route from then of a misunderstood monster finally saving the day. Samuel.L.Jackson as Colonel Packard provides a neat wrinkle to the plot and leads to some tense moments towards the end. Tom Hiddleston’s presence is a definite lift while soon-to-be Captain Marvel Brie Larson does her best with the limited character material.  John C. Reilly plays Hank Marlow, who has been stuck on the island for a long while and friends with the Iwi natives.
The first huge plus point of the film is cinematography by Larry Fong, who has previously worked for Zack Snyder films, including Batman vs Superman:Dawn of Justice. Fong captures the landscape of the island, filled with rivers, mountains and flora with an extra layer of beauty and the gigantic magnificence with which Kong is presented in every frame stands out.
The movie starts at a brisk pace building the story and then the entire story revolves in Skull Island. Kong is given more screen-time than Godzilla was, but that could be very well due to the availability of a better characterization and greater depth for an ape when compared to the God of Monsters. However, the screenplay loosens a bit towards the middle as the back-story is explained and the movie inches towards the climax and here, John C.Reilly’s humour is the only positive that keeps the viewers engaged.
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Coming to the King of Apes himself, I have not watched the 30s film and my only reference here is the one from Peter Jackson’s King Kong. I personally prefer the current version of the Kong, young, strong, temperamental but with a heart. Every scene Kong is in, he burns the screen, be it the action sequences including a very cool Roman Reigns’ Superman Punch,  or the scenes we see him show his benevolent side or the scenes he interacts with the humans.
With Kong, the two main protagonists in the MonsterVerse have made their way onto the silver screens and now the wait begins for the Godzilla vs Kong movie in 2020. While it does look for a Superman vs Batman clash, what sells it as well as differentiates it from the superhero genre is that the existence of these monsters lies on borderline reality, but believable one nonetheless. This is because we still do not completely understand every mystery of our planet and given that giant creatures roamed our lands before we arrived, the notion of a predator rising up when a prey turns up as a balance of nature is not all that implausible.
Before the clash of titans, Godzilla: God of Monsters is going to hit the theatres in 2019 and that would be a good measure of whether the standalone movies can continue after the traits and powers of the monsters are revealed in their respective first parts and the novelty element is no longer present. Till, then everyone can bow down to the King of Apes and my one piece of advice would be – please watch it in theatres for the monstrous experience as it is completely worth it, including the 3D.
 Note – All the above images are from Google.
©Saketh Ayyagari i.e. me.
YNWA

Bat-Mad!

The superhero bug bit me quite early in my early formative years. Amidst all the colourful costumes, mind-boggling powers and twisted realities, I found my hero in a certain Caped Crusader wearing a black costume and possessing the power of being “just a human”, albeit a highly trained and motivated one.

At that point of time, being the only superhero who did not have special powers appealed massively to me and I became an instant fan. Watching the 80s and 90s films, the legendary animated series in the 90s, the group ensemble Justice League in the 00s and reading any comics I could lay my hand on, I imbibed the superhero spirit of choosing the good path despite everything for that is what makes a hero.

batman 1

As the years added on and thoughts matured, when one can start thinking beyond the superhero stuff, came along a phenomenon that forever etched the Bat into my heart. It was a three-part trilogy by one of the greatest directors of all time, Christopher Nolan, and the movie captured the essence of the Dark Knight like never before.

Although the second part is the much more acclaimed movie, for me the first part, “Batman Begins” drove home what it means to be Batman and the madness started evolving since then. In fact, the series put forth how anyone can be a hero and therein lies the durability of superheroes across centuries.

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A hero is anyone who chooses the good path despite everything and not because of everything. The powers are present to show different perspectives, the villains exist to portray different scenarios and the story works towards finding the solution in each scenario, which is not so different from our lives.

What started as a source of time-killing, turned into an inspiration and now it motivates me in every situation I face and has made me a slightly madder, yet better human.

Bat-Mad© Forever!

Note – The photos are taken from Google images.

The above content is original and the rights belong to Saketh Ayyagari i.e. me!

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Logan review : Fare thee well!

Long before Robert Downey Jr. made Iron Man/Tony Stark his own, long before the Avengers put their mark on respective characters, and even before Christian Bale became the definitive Batman, Hugh Jackman became the Wolverine in Bryan Singer’s X-Men in 2000. Since then, he has played the role in seven installments including the latest one and uncredited cameos in two more.  Hence, for someone who initiated the era of a  single actor owning a superhero character, it is a pretty difficult task to send him riding into the sunset. However, James Mangold’s Logan not only delivers a gripping farewell to the popular character, but also puts out a fresh and interesting superhero story,thereby becoming the best Wolverine movie yet and also one of the best superhero movies ever.

The movie, drawing from the Old Man Logan comics, portrays the character beyond his prime, with weakening powers including slowed healing ability, a limp and the attitude of a person, which his dear friend and mentor Charles Xavier attributes as “waiting to die”. His life goes for a toss when the little girl Laura enters and from then the movie becomes an engaging drama for a pleasant change as we witness the emotions of a broken man who cannot stay away from protecting the people he cares for, and while doing so always leaves behind a trail of bodies, including innocent ones.

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It is in these moments built up throughout the film and the way we see Wolverine in his absolute bloody glory in the climax, the soul of the character and the essence of a superhero are both captured simultaneously. Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of the character has always been top-notch but the stories told previously always left everyone wanting. However, this time around, the script helps Jackman finally elevate the character and the Australian actor puts on a performance of a lifetime showing the depth of Wolverine’s pathos and angst while never backing down from a fight no matter the odds.

Further, the true essence of a superhero does not lie in his/her powers, instead it lies in their ability to keep fighting for the good cause despite age, failings and situations. Logan manages to drive home the point with aplomb and that is the biggest victory for the film. The action sequences do not disappoint and it is fair to say the brutal nature of Wolverine’s offence is helped immensely by the “R” rating. For this, the film makers and fans are indebted to “Deadpool”, that broke through the rating barrier last year. The rating allows for some amazing Wolverine-esque action that could not be shown before and also gives Hugh Jackman the freedom in showcasing Logan’s feelings. A good point about the movie is that the rating has not been misused in any way and instead, it helps in enhancing the story.

Logan Empire 4K

The movie does well to flesh out Laura’s character slowly and gives us a little glimpse of how Wolverine could have been as a child while Patrick Stewart plays an ancient Charles with ease. The background score by Marco Beltrami maintains the sober tone throughout with the required flare-ups during the melees. On  the flip side, the movie does slow down a bit in the middles but the payday for those scenes at the end makes up for it.

James Mangold got the character right in his previous film, “The Wolverine”, but could not connect it well to the audience. He rectified it this time around and the occasional references to the past and the little odes to the character through the comic books and cigars work well. Overall, Hugh Jackman lays down the blueprint for his counterparts when they film their swansongs, and in case he never ever dons the claws again (never say never), then it is time to say thank you for making a popular character iconic and he will forever be remembered as the Wolverine!

“I am the best at what I do, but what I do is not very nice”

 

The featured image is from http://www.foxmovies.com/movies/logan

All the remaining images used above are from Google.

The content copyrights belong to Saketh Ayyagari i.e. me!

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