Spiderman: Homecoming Review – The Spider Kid earns his Marvel stripes

First of all, I would like to clear right away that I am not a Spiderman fan. Neither the Sam Raimi-Tobey Maguire trilogy nor the Marc Webb-Andrew Garfield made me connect for whatever reasons with the friendly neighbourhood superhero. The only media I enjoyed him was cartoons and comics. With Marvel acquiring him, there was the golden opportunity and Captain America: Civil War gave a brilliant teaser of what was to come. On a personal level, I finally fell in love with the web slinger after this film.

Spiderman always needed a colourful, charming tone and Marvel exactly fits the bill. The music for Marvel Studios along with the animation right at the beginning shows what is to follow. Homecoming maintains a long-distance relationship with the larger MCU. Even the much-hyped partnership with Iron Man is surprisingly maintained at a very minimal level. Robert Downey Jr. never steals anything significant from his son-like protege and the story allows for the most famous Marvel superhero to blossom.

Tom Holland as Spiderman

Tom Holland does a tremendous job in the role as he deals with his alter-ego’s responsibilities of a teenager. Another key aspect of Spiderman is the fun aspect and in typical Marvel fashion, the movie delivers in spades. There are scenes that would even make Joss Whedon proud when it comes to witty humour, be it about his powers, problems and in action sequences.

Michael Keaton does a commendable job as a villain and is one of the better Marvel villains till date. In recent films, there has been a visible effort to make the MCU global and Homecoming has a strong Asian presence including Peter’s best friend. There are a couple of surprising cameos and Jon Favreau gets good screen time as the likeable Happy Hogan.

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The action sequences are fun and the stakes at all times are smaller than saving the world. However, they involve human risk and suits well with Peter Parker’s arc in the film. While all emotional moments do not resonate to the extent one would expect, Spiderman as a do-gooder with grit, righteousness and bravado stand out amidst the fun.

Jon Watts does a great job in bringing the character into the MCU and the screenplay is one of the biggest assets of the film. The movie races ahead at all times as both Peter Parker and Spiderman deal with their respective issues. This dual focus is well-written and there is never more of extra focus on either of the alter-egos, which is a good thing. One can understand the stakes for both the kid and the superhero at every point and the brisk pace helps the film massively.

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Finally, almost every movie in any franchise that does not have a need to set-up something next always tend to do well. Doctor Strange and Ant-Man are the best recent examples in the MCU. Spiderman:Homecoming is the perfect homecoming for Spiderman into the MCU with a vulnerable Peter Parker who is not bogged down by his responsibilties for a change. Instead, he is just a young teen trying to make a change.

Overall, it is not a perfect film by any means but offers a whole lot of entertainment while bringing Marvel’s most beloved character into the MCU. After all, Marvel’s focus and success has always been entertainment. Then, who better to deliver it than your friendly neighbourhood hero with a befitting background score.

Note – Wait out for the end-credits scene. It is totally worth it and shows why Marvel still has the audience eating out of their hands!

All images are reproduced from Google.

All content rights reserved to me i.e. Saketh Ayyagari!

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.

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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.

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

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.

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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!

YNWA

 

Sahasam Swasaga Sagipo Review – Naga Chaitanya comes full circle

It has been six years since Naga Chaitanya’s “Ye Maaya Chesave”, also directed by Gautham Vasudev Menon released. It showed the kind of roles Chaitanya suits well for, the common man roles with emotions and sincerity. However, there was much to be left wanting then. After a variety of attempts over the years, he has finally come full circle with Menon’s “Sahasam Swasaga Sagipo”.

The director’s prime motive is to show how one moment in a person’s life can completely change it in ways he/she cannot imagine. A good amount of the first-half is spent on showing the Naga Chaitanya we have known over the years, the regular good-looking guy trying to find his way in life plans to go on a road trip. The narrative is peppered with songs and the editing of “Vellipomakey” deserves a special mention.

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This slow-burn that invokes subtle nostalgia shifts gears at a swift pace from romance to thriller territory once the above mentioned occurs. From that point on, the film becomes its own as the good people get entangled in a survival fight with powers must higher than a common man could fathom. It is from this point that both the movie and Chaitanya show remarkable depth as the thriller races along.

The plot thickens with Baba Sehgal playing a corrupt cop. The previously mellow Chaitanya transforms into a decisive and motivated man when he is pushed into a corner with nowhere to run.The director keeps the screenplay taut to ensure the audience remain hooked  Although the ending is on the simpler side, one leaves the hall having witnessed a fresh and interesting thriller. The director ensures there is time for emotions to come to the surface while the good guys come to term with the situation and losses.

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Naga Chaitanya is in his comfort zone as the romantic and wanderlust guy in the first-half. He shows his true acting chops first as the cornered one and later as the brooding, vengeful and brave protagonist with gravitas and maturity. He looks really handsome throughout the film with the beard and in the second-half, he resembles his evergreen dad Nagarjuna in a number of scenes.

The debutant Manjima Mohan makes an impressive debut showing good chemistry with Chaitanya in the first-half and the terror-struck girl in the middle of an unfathomable conspiracy in the second. Baba Sehgal does pretty well as the corrupt cop. A special mention for another debutant who is multi-talented – Rakendu Mouli. He plays the role of hero’s best friend with ease and gets a meaty role. His talents however do not stop there. His name can be seen under the lyricist section as well and he dances comfortably too.

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A.R.Rahman composed a few quirky numbers which however still fall short of his blockbusters and the wait for his next chartbuster album continues. His background score is top-notch though as it enhances the viewing experience. Dialogues by Kona Venkat ensure some memorable moments. The movie is laced with doses of humour to lighten up the mood. The director, Gautham Menon pulls all the right strings although one gets the feeling a slightly shorter film would have been even better.

First with “Premam” and now with “Sahasam Swasaga Sagipo”, Naga Chaitanya has carved a niche for himself this year. Now, the challenge is constantly finding scripts with this kind of roles. For now, he has another hit in his bag with a fresh and meaningful thriller.

Overall, Sahasam Swasaga Sagipo” is another top film in the revolution Telugu Film Industry is undergoing this year and is a must watch.

Doctor Strange Review – TV Sherlock’s magical entry into Marvel Cinematic Universe

The first fundamental reason Marvel’s juggernaut continues to be so successful in spite of the avalanche of superhero movies in the last decade is the casting. Starting from Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man (2008) to Benedict Cumberbatch as Stephen Strange, the casting has been perfect. Cumberbatch and Downey played Sherlock on TV and film respectively because there is none in the industry better than them for portraying a brilliant and arrogant individual. So, it is perfectly logical for Cumberbatch to play the role of Dr. Strange which has a similar personality as that of Sherlock and Tony Stark.

Coming to the movie, Marvel continues to make origin stories work by making the necessary tweaks in its approach so that there always remains a freshness to the film. Doctor Strange remains fresh in spite of the many memories it evokes. The magic reminds of Harry Potter, the personality of Cumberbatch’s Sherlock, the character arc of Iron Man’s, the cloak of Aladdin’s magic carpet and the visuals of Christopher Nolan’s Inception. And yet, the movie does not overplay any of those and has its heart at the right place.

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While the story remains similar to other origin stories, the way in which the story is told keeps it different from the ones before. Cumberbatch holds the audience’s gaze every time he is on-screen and portrays the supreme confidence, deep pathos and the transformation with conviction. Director Scott Derrickson who co-wrote the script patiently builds the character and at the end of the movie, ensures Strange has a long way to go to become the Sorcerer Supreme.

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The visuals deserve a special mention. While the memories of Inception are understandable, it is fair to say Doctor Strange comes on top. In fact, this is the first Marvel movie that is actually worthy of watching in 3D. The action sequences in varying dimensions are one of the best pieces of visual work ever.

If there is one department Marvel continues to struggle, it is their villains. Their casting has never been a problem with top actors taking up the role (in this case Mads Mikkelsen), it is the lack of depth to them that is hurting. In this movie, Mikkelsen plays the antagonist without leaving a mark of any sort on the audience. One of the biggest reasons, Civil War worked so well is the pitting of heroes whose characters are fully developed against one another which ensured the audience could connect to them.

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All in all, Doctor Strange opens Marvel’s doors to magic with a visually stunning film. The first half keeps you hooked throughout while the second half is predictable in terms of story and yet manages to keep you engaged. Marvel has tried to shy away from the traditional climaxes with a different one here that may not be to everyone’s liking. The mid-credits scene thrills every Marvel fan while the post-credits scene sets up the next part.

Doctor Strange does make one think whether an upcoming origin story might be the first failure they might encounter due to the common plot. However, they keep offering something different and till they keep doing that, they are unstoppable.