Annabelle, why you be so creepy?

annabelle creation

She strikes again! The creepy doll that is a potent scare fest material for the sleepless nights that you might have had after watching her in the previous films, is back!! And this time, she is just a treat for anyone who is a horror genre fan. Annabelle: Creation, the latest addition to the Conjuring Universe (yeah it is a thing now!) that tells the story of the doll’s origin, possession and transit through the years, has all the essential elements of sending chills down your spine. There are jump scares, there are throwbacks, there is atmospheric eeriness and yes there are long long close up shots of that doll. Oh and before I forget, there are mid and post credit scenes. Yeah well now every movie wants us to go through those endless credits. (Fun game idea in the end– Aha! Did you see what I did there?!)

So, there are a lot of jump scares in the first half. If you are more of a lightweight around horror movies, then you would be crapping your pants throughout. However, the second half has more weight. It has the backstory, the plot has some character development especially between the two main girls and yes it finally reveals the origins of the doll that has been haunting you for a long time now. The atmospherics of the movie leverage the period set up to the fullest and brings about the same impact as The Conjuring movies. In addition to that, the movie uses two things quite aptly- sound design and cinematography. The music adds layers to the effectiveness and is close to what solid background did for The Shining. When the movie is not jump scaring you, it is playing with you through shadows, imagery and camera angles. And that is all that is needed to make it a good watch.

This is a definite valuable addition to the universe that James Wan is aiming to create (like I said; everybody wants to be Marvel; CASH GRABBERS!). It is everything that the first Annabelle wasn’t. And even though it works as an enjoyable standalone movie, it connects aspects of other entries in the series quite well. It leads to the events of the first Annabelle movie, Valak (the demon from Conjuring 2) makes a special appearance and teases the upcoming spin off- Nun and we get to see the actual Raggedy Ann doll that the Annabelle series is based on. (#TriviaTime The real Annabelle doll that resides in a glass chamber at Ed and Lorraine Warren’s museum is not the porcelain doll that the movie features but a Rag Doll. Look at this innocent looking doll and then think of all the creepy stories around it. Just look at it!!!)

Image result for annabelle doll

Now those are all good things but there is an essential problem with this formulaic approach too. The problem, which has greater impact if you are a horror movie fan, is that you almost know what is going to happen in most of the scenes. The crippled is going to be the most affected, the demon is going to vomit some black goo and possess, there are going to 3-4 girls who will just be there to scream (shriek), etc. etc. but that in no way takes away from how entertaining Annabelle: Creation is. All in all, the movie is a must watch for anyone who enjoys classic scary horror movies that keep you at the edge of your seats. If you are looking for subtle imagery, a thick storyline, immense character development then this might disappoint you. It is not as good as the first Conjuring but comes real close. I have to give a shout out to the director of this one- David Sandberg, who also directed Lights Out, for an amazing job done.

Hits- Jump Scares, Direction, Sound Score, Cinematography
Misses- Formulaic, change in the doll’s appearance from the earlier movies (which might only be a thing for an ardent follower)

Oh yeah, the fun game- so in any movie which is heavy on VFX and special effects- get your friends to locate Indian names in the crew list. It is fun and makes you wonder why these talented people are not working for Indian studios that suck at special effects.

Jab SRK met Imtiaz!

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Now this one is in little bit of a fix. Is it a SRK film or an Imtiaz film? Because the lens that you are going to see it with will essentially change the way you feel about this movie. If you see it as a SRK film, it is no different- it is super plush movie with exotic locations, punjabi male lead, a charmer, a the sure shot lady-winner who also breaks into song and dance in a jiffy. If you see it as an Imtiaz film- it is very very different. You have now been used to maybe getting a stir in your soul by watching his cinema, you might expect a lot of layered writing, lot of soul searching and characters evolving from one phase to another at a life-unsettling pace. That is the basic conundrum of this highly anticipated movie- Jab Harry Met Sejal.

There is no story really. The ring that is lost is merely a metaphor throughout the movie which defines what each character is seeking. Sejal might be seeking a way out of her situation, might be seeking an adventure, an experience which amazes her because wo waisi aurat hai hi nahin. Harry, on the other hand, is this broken womaniser who is trying to find that one soul which fixes his own- the key to his lock, the other half of his heart, the anchor to his life. They are bound to fall in love, they are bound to show each other what they have been missing in life, they are bound to have the best chemistry that they have ever experienced. But what assures that is their journey. It is a film about moments, about subtle thoughts, maybe scenarios which shock you- when you realise that you can feel something which you might not in your ‘normal-daily-all is fine-in denial, borderline fake routine life’. The problem however is that this is too inconsistent. The problem is not that there is no cohesive story. The problem is that the screenplay does not bind the journey- the inner one- in one coherent narrative.

The first half is too jovial, impractical maybe, fun and the second one comes with a strong (mis)understanding that the audience has understood the characters’ arcs. It’s not all bad, it only becomes bad when you start expecting too much out of the movie. This is an Imtiaz film but the fact that a 50+ year old, with lots of make up on his face (and post production VFX according to my conspiracy theory) is a superstar who is hard to tame. Anushka on the other hand is more disappointing because of what she does with the character. The accent is inconsistent and irritating at times, the acting is as bewildered as in any other Anushka film and the biggest problem of all is that we are not able to connect with her. You cannot possibly go on watching the film without judging her intentions at some point. She is a self proclaimed selfish girl who will just walk away once she find the ring and that is one thing that stays with the character. That is her flaw- but the actual hidden intention behind it- her self exploration, validation of being layak and finding what is missing in her engagement- is never really exposed.

The music is just fine, a couple of songs are sheer misfits (including my jam song- Beech Beech mein) and the locations are amazing. So all in all- it can be watched once if you dont want to delve very deep into the inner workings of the characters. The writing is layered and will touch you but those moments are rare in the entire film, which is a boo-boo!

SRK is fine but he needs to lose that one expression of frowning eyebrows and that made up deep macho voice. I am happy that he is finally breaking away from that SRK stereotype of ‘oh I will lech, be dirty, be a womaniser but will never compromise a woman’s modesty’. If you love a woman so much, just kiss her. And good you are now- and less awkwardly than what you did in Jab Tak Hai Jaan.

All in all- watch it ONCE and then maybe watch the second half once more on TV!

Hits- Acting, How it is shot, Music (some of it)
Misses- Screenplay, Too plain a storyline, Incoherence

(Picture Credits- Wikicommons)

Because MOM is always right!

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I know this might be a little late but considering there is still a lot of buzz around the movie and after all it’s about MAA, why not! So let’s see- what do we have here?! Take a yesteryear star looking for a comeback after every 3-4 years, some talent from the neighbor country, a buffed up dude to play the chichora launda, a nerve wracking background score and yes a tragedy which would instill all levels of heroism in an otherwise meek mother figure- rape in this case. Once you have all this, blend it into the most predictable and stereotypical screenplay and BAM! you have a movie like MOM.

But then wait. That’s not the end of it. There is a reason why films like this work at some level. Because it has the universal mother-offspring connect, because it shakes you up a little everytime you see something tragic onscreen and at some level you are still keen to see those yesteryear stars performing their hearts out in a film which is basically hanging on their shoulders. It still has impact and that is exactly what Mom is able to do.

Sridevi does not miss a beat. She is on point with her portrayal of a mother who is trying to build a connect with her stepdaughter, who later in the story goes through the turmoil of being blamed for the tragedy and who shines as the woman driven only by the sheer angst of avenging her daughter. Two things that you should just let go are Sridevi’s dialogue delivery and the necessary failure of the ‘system’ in such movies. Adding brilliantly to the star cast is Nawazuddin and Akshaye Khanna (who in my opinion is really a missed opportunity for Bollywood, oh damn that man has some serious acting chops!) The Pakistani actors playing the daughter (Sajal Ali) and husband (Adnan Siddiqui) are capable actors and will not let the energy drop down.

There are some interesting plot developments where you will be slightly pleased and then there are many which are as predictable as what you are having for lunch (Yes, you are having exactly what the maid packed for you so don’t be all cool and think oh we will order something. That is not going to take you far!). But overall the movie does not dip your interest or lose you anywhere- which is enough, right? And if you are watching it with your mommy dear then obviously you will feel that eventual streak of love for her. So at that moment, just HUG HER!

Hits- Sridevi, Nawaz, Akshaye
Misses- Predictable Plot, Too convenient a resolution, Bad special hill station special effects

(Picture Credits- Wikicommons)

This ‘Baby’ sure can ‘Drive’!

Image result for baby driver

Every peace-loving movie goer, at some point in life, has to undergo the deeply disturbing times of watching a film with a yapper! It’s a not so rare breed of movie watchers who just cannot keep shut. They have a comment, a oh! a ye kya hai! on every scene. Well, we all have one or a couple of such ‘friends’ and we have to live with that. But why do I bring this here? I bring it here because something unusual happened. Something that I have personally never experienced. The yapper was shut. Throughout the movie (Pfft! That is not possible. Let’s ballpark it at 80% of the movie, which is a LOT!). And this movie did it. Baby Driver- a title that not a lot of people recognised, that is so unassuming but is such a brilliant piece of entertainment.

Revolving around the central character called Baby (I would not disclose the real name- yes you do get to know that at the end), the movie is about a brilliant driver who helps gangs to escape from their crime scenes. He is stuck in this shit hole for a reason. He has a condition in his eardrums which creates a constant buzz in his ears- because of which he listens to music at almost all times. And that’s how it is a pseduo musical with a genuine heart. You would not guess what is going to happen the next or at least how it will unfold. You will not be burdened with some sad back story. You will have a smile on your face throughout; obviously when you are not gasping! There are moments that you would not expect in this one. 

Music adds heart but the camerawork takes you deep in this world. Where there is thrill in skillfully crafted car chase sequences and where there is just romance in the air. You have this marvellous piece by Edgar Wright rated at a near 100% on Rotten Tomatoes because of the brilliant star cast. From Ansel Elgort to Kevin Spacey, Jon Hamm, Jamie Fox, etc. everyone is ON POINT. There is Lily James too but is slightly far off from the point in question. 

I have a feeling that this would be a title like La La Land- one that slowly grows on people and gains a cult following. A definite watch if you like cinema that is not too hard on the soul but also is not frivolous. 

Hits- Performances, Direction, Music, Camerawork, Charm
Misses- slightly less fluid tone change from the first half to the second

Picture Credits- Wikipedia

Take a bow- Wonder Woman is here!

Image result for wonder woman 2017A dear friend asked me to describe the movie in just 3 words and I could only come up with- “It was great!” And most probably, that is what you are going to feel after you have watched this one. You start with the Greek Mythology of how the Amazons came into existence and how there was a God still lurking around to take his revenge. That very soon in the film is also interspersed with what is going on in the ‘human world’ and you are introduced to the times of World War 1, a British spy and a couple of megalomaniac Germans developing a poisonous gas for mass destruction.

The beauty of the script is that it is simple. It is exactly what Wonder Woman would see and experience throughout the film so the viewer never leaves her side. Well for good reason, HAVE YOU SEEN HER! Phew!! She is taken out of a paradisaical land and introduced to the world where men take charge, where women and children die and where she teams up with few who are righteous and want to really do some good, to save the day. Don’t expect anymore plot details because you don’t do that to wafer thin plots.

Gal Gadot, that beauty is everything that you wish for in Wonder Woman. It is not an easy role at all to take on. She looks absolutely stunning, she knows what to do with her body in that skimpy dress and she knows how to look vulnerable and innocent in the scenes where she realises that the world is not that simple. There were hoots in the hall when she walks in slow motion, in all her glory, to fight an attack from opposing army! But it’s not like the man in the film is any less. Chris Pine is so underrated yet so effective. He has this charm and comic timing that work for him throughout. He is the bridge between her world and his and he brings substance wherever required. You would have a constant smile on your face during their initial interaction and would feel for their pain in the end. I hate them for doing whatever they did to Robin Wright’s (Claire Underwood) character in the first part of the movie. And the villain (the initial one at least) is just too done to death with. At a certain point, I got confused if it was a Marvel crossover. Why do you have to cast such similar looking villains!

But the movie is entertaining throughout. You get some bit of mythology, action, drama, war, comedy and seemingly genuine emotions. And a lot of the credit should go to the amazing one, a wonder woman herself if you will- the director of the movie- Patty Jenkins. Baaki sab is all what you need in these high budget fantasy movies- the costumes, the scale, the effects- everything is right there. There is a lot of slo mo- a lot of it but it looks effective at most points. The final fight is slightly jarring because of it’s over saturated special effects.

Hits- Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Patty Jenkins, a probable revival of DC universe
Misses- Over stylised CGI, wafer thin plot, Robin Wright’s character- she could have done so much more

All in all- A good weekend watch!

 

Mere pyaare Ayushman

Image result for meri pyaari bindu

I watched several movies in these past few weeks. Movies, in my head, are these therapeutic mediums that come to your rescue in the darkest times. Whether you are happy or heartbroken, movies are there to give you the much needed catharsis. And somehow that is what I expected Meri Pyaari Bindu to do for me. I always thought this would be a movie of moments- sweet, emotional, cherishable. But as the movie starting rolling, a flickering NO starting flashing in different corners. Essentially (yes, I use that a lot) it boiled down to three things- Ayushman’s subtle performance, a new favourite in ‘Maana ki hum yaar nahin’ (maybe because of current mood) and Parineeti’s makeover (read weight loss). The third one being the most prominent.

The movie wasn’t bad and it might be liked by some but it did not seal the deal for me. Not at least in the first watch. And the super apparent post production dubbing by actors did not help. It was like hearing an audio recording over a video that was playing. Even if the story wasn’t the most layered, I was ready to give in to the charm of the film but it never rose up to the occasion. Bindu was supposedly this super quirky, strong headed, whimsical girl who knew her way around the world. She got everything super easy because she was street smart and also because she had a loyal loyal friend in Abhimanyu. But then what happened? She got into the music scene with much ease but then broke down with one miss? She broke 2 engagements before falling for the male lead but then broke it with him too because she was not in the best phases of her life. Fair. But umm..2 years and you not only found another man, you decided to marry him without giving a second try for a person who loved you since he saw you two decades ago. I did not buy into it. Especially when the issue was never their equation.

But the old classics infused some energy into the film which was a refreshing break from very average album otherwise. Parineeti sang and she sang good but acting- Aenn! (it was a phonetic expression- try it. Aenn! Like a buzzer, Aenn!). But But But Ayushman Khurrana. He was a real gem when compared to everything around the movie. He was so nuanced, sincere and so present. Watch this movie for him.

Pluses- Ayushman Khuranna, One song at the end, How the movie is shot, Old melodies
Minuses- Parineeti and equally the film makers- get over the weight loss, Wafer thin story line, Doesn’t have moments

 

(Picture credits- Yash Raj Movies)

Let’s start with the ‘King’- Kong: Skull Island

This is an opinion piece on Kong: Skull Island

For the longest time now, people have been telling me to write about the entertainment pieces that I watch (which are a lot!). Now, going back in time and talking about titles I have watched in the past might not be the best-suited route for this and maybe in the future posts, I will delve deeper into retrospective opinions- but first let me take a selfie! Ha! No, let me start with the latest flick I watched (just yesterday). Kong: Skull Island.

Well, let me make it clear in the beginning that I strongly believe that there are several genres of movies and they should only be judged based on that; and by that logic- Kong wasn’t half bad! What do you expect from a monster movie of 2017, which is trying to revive/rebuild a franchise based on a mythical character entertaining audiences since 1933? An ensemble, good build up, CGI worth appreciating and some random characters who would be killed at several points in the movie. And you know who they are from the very start. Also, enough with making the casts multi-ethnic! Too obvious Hollywood, too obvious! Although I wonder how Tom Hiddleston’s character (who is a ‘tracker’ who tracks, for lack of a better world, Jackshit!) survives without a scratch on his body or on that muscle tee that he flaunts his biceps in throughout the movie! Well there is a reason why they are called heroes, I guess. #LifeGoals

You are introduced to Kong early on in the movie and you are not disappointed; quite frankly, I did not care for why these guys would land up on this island- you just want them to land, get trapped and then run for their lives; and that THEY DO. What was amazing was the casting of Brie Larson. Really? After an Oscar, you take up a role which had 5 dialogues in total! But, I digress. Let’s talk again about how Kong is this amazing anti-hero monster that everyone loves (including a tribal colony on the island with means to paint themselves in yellow and blue) and who the main characters actually try to save on his own island by the end of the movie. He is a monster who is a caretaker, who is (the) king, who eats octopus-like creatures and who for no rhyme or reason has a thing for the main female character. As for the creatures, there are just so many on that island- and the amazing thing is that only one of each variety is ever introduced in the movie. Budget constraints much! But are we really concerned by that? No. The highlights of the movie are when Kong smashes helicopters, breaks jaws of the skull-crawlers (another lethal creature on the island- final showdown worthy!), gets burnt completely to reappear to save the day etc. etc. The CGI moments basically.

Throughout the movie, I only wished that the amount of expressions or emotions on Kong’s face was complemented equally by all actors in the movie. Mind you, it has some amazing actors like Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, John C. Reilly, so on and so forth. It seems like the CGI talent was better at imitating emotions than actual human beings. But again, what are you expecting from a monster flick! The effects, scale and camerawork; and they all work but the editing doesn’t. Was the editor half-paid or just rushed through the second half of the movie? Chopped it up left, right and center. There was literally a scene where three characters were lying on the ground almost about to die and next we see an aerial shot of all of them posing like the Avengers.

In a nutshell, don’t miss it if you are into this universe or monster movies in general. Especially try watching it in IMAX if it is accessible to you. And just one more tip, go in with NOT many expectations but a LOT OF popcorn and cola because it is kinda sorta fun!

P.S. I have kept it short- first post no! Let’s see what later posts have in store. Well, whatever I write but figure of speech yo!

P.P.S. Do stick around for the post-credits scene. Why did I write that so much later in the post, you ask? Because it bloody well prepares you for the wait- it is ACTUALLY a post-credits scene. Like after all of them. Who does that?!

Image source: Comingsoon.net