Review- Star Trek- Into Darkness

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The first Star Trek movie was a movie defining moment for all fans of the franchise and the ones that weren’t. The second movie was promised to be a stand alone movie by JJ Abrams before the trailers came out for it. There is always two crowds that watch the Star Trek movies. One- Trekkies and the other- Non-Trekkies (wannabe Trekkies). This movie is satisfying for both groups of fans. I consider myself to be in between a wannabe trekkie and a full blown trekkie as I did not watch the tv shows. I had played a role in The Wrath of Khan play in high school drama class. Ever since then I was part of the Starfleet fan base.

The movie starts of with Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and Bones (Karl Urban) running through a primitive planet where the USS Enterprise is sent on a mission to observe the species and to turn off an erupting volcano to save the planet. The first twist in the movie come in about 10 minutes into the movie when Kirk defies the rule of saving one person’s life over giving up the identity of the ship to the primitive species. The friendship between Spock and Kirk is developed to a great detail in this movie and it is one of the most enduring factors that makes the movie more interesting.

The story starts off when Kirk is fired for not obeying the rule of Starfleet and both him and his crew are re-assigned to other ships. The bar scene between Bruce Greenwood and Chris Pine is a great one which shows how much a father figure Admiral Pike is to Kirk. We see the introduction of the main negative character in the movie very early in the movie. Benedict Cumberbatch plays Commander John Harrison and is outstanding in the movie. His intro scene gives you chills as he keeps his calm and composed demeanor with a British accent of course. That does add to it. John Harrison has a vendetta against Starfleet as he was one of them and the movie revolved around how far he is willing to go to make they pay. There is one cameo in the movie. Anyone who saw the previous Star Trek in 2009, will guess it if given three tries or even 1 depending on if you are trekkie or not.

The action in the movie is outstanding, more importantly the CGI is top notch (watch out of the scene where Kirk is jetting through space from one ship to another). The director brings his sense of being a “trekkie” to the movie and it pays off greatly to every fans delight. In 2013 so far, I have yet to see a movie with so many twists and turns. The tongue and cheek scenes between Uhura and Spock are a great addition to the movie. It also plays to the playboyish personality of Captain Kirk when he is put in between the two of them. Overall, the screenplay is great to begin with, and with some editing in the middle of the movie, it would have been simply top notch. The background score also adds a zing to the movie and works great especially in the outer space scenes.

In conclusion, I would say the movie is one hell of an entertainer for the masses. I watched it in 3D and was not disappointed AT ALL.

Rating- 4/5

Star Trek Into Darkness is in theaters now.

Review- Iron Man 3

Robert Downey Jr. is back with a bang.

Robert Downey Jr. is back with a bang.

First things first, I am a huge Iron Man fan and this review is from a person who would go watch the new Iron Man movie even if the movie sucked. Having said that, this movie is probably on top of the list for the ones I am excited about for this year. I had planned to watch this movie the first day for about couple of months. I had seen the trailer close to 20 times by the time I saw the movie, so yes I was just like the the other fans of the Marvel franchise.

The lineup started about 2 hours before the movie and it was guaranteed to be a full house given that it was a Friday. I went in with huge expectations and especially perception of how The Mandarin would play out. In terms of the story, it all starts with Tony Stark and how the story from The Avengers and the New York plot haunts him and leads to amnesia. He continues to work and develop his Iron Man suit(s) with major technological improvements. The improvements and how the suit is armed is one of the highlight of every Iron Man movie, which is the case in this instalment as well.

The story revolves around how the Mandarin is wrecking havoc and spreading terror within America and people are turning to Tony Stark to respond to him. One attack after another, the Mandarin doesn’t stop until he gets to the President of the United States (POTUS). One cool scene is where POTUS is inside the suit and I wont destroy it for people who have still to watch the movie. But its a really cool scene.

The movie shows a different side of RDJ as most of the movie he is without the suit. Its a more human story than the previous instalments. The bad guy i.e. Mandarin is a great character and Ben Kingsley is stellar in the role. One thing I will say about the Mandarin is that, the character does not turn out the way you would usually expect from a blockbuster movie. RDJ is awesome as usual in the title role. Pepper Potts i.e. Gwyneth Paltrow is “hot” in the movie and plays a much bigger role which is a great addition to the story line. The reason why I put hot in quotes is something viewers will understand after they see the movie. Don Cheadle is a great side kick for RDJ and plays it brilliantly. His character should be developed further in the upcoming movies as he is a great actor and should be playing a bigger role in the franchise.

The action in the movie is also first rate which is a great asset to the moviegoer especially recent fans who dont really care about the story line and are there primarily for the action. Overall, the movie has a great story, awesome acting by the actors and superb continuation of the Marvel heroes franchise. Make sure to stay for the end credits scene and you will catch a glimpse of another actor from the recent Avengers movie with RDJ. I expected a more dramatic scene in the end credits but it was still fine as both the actors were very funny in that scene. In terms of box office, Iron Man 3 is the second highest opening of all time only surpassed by another Marvel movie “The Avengers”. A must watch movie for all ages.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Iron Man 3 is in theatres now

Review- Admission

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Tina Fey and Paul Rudd in one movie. What comes to mind. Funny, decent jokes, maybe money’s worth. I could end the review right here and it would probably be fine. But in the interest of writer’s conscience, I shall continue. So all of the above are accurate representation of the movie called Admission. Its got the very funny Tina Fey and equally talented and funny Paul Rudd. The story is about an admissions counselor from Princeton University and how she deals with the fact that she might have an adult son.

The story begins with Tina Fey and her systematic life as an admissions officer. Her character Portia Nathan is not the biggest fan of one of her colleagues who wants the top job of Director of Admissions for Princeton when the boss retires. She gets emails and calls all the time from potential schools wanting her to come in for a recruitment presentation. One particular school that keeps calling her is Paul Rudd’s school which is has a weird way of teaching kids.

Portia accepts the invitation to come in for a recruitment presentation and the story changes completely when she finds out one of the students is her son when she had gotten pregnant in her 20’s. To further complicate the story, the kid wants to go to Princeton for his university education. The second half of the movie revolves around what a mother is willing to do for a son (possibly hers) in order for him to get into Princeton. The ending is very expected in terms of what is expected to happen. I couldn’t help but think that Paul Rudd is taking that angle just so the kid could get into Princeton. I particularly liked the scenes with Tina Fey and her mother as they are the funniest scenes in the entire movie.

In terms of characters, Paul Rudd is okay and in his usual form of comedy. Tina Fey is the star of the movie. Her awkward and sarcastic sense of humor is what gets the movie going. Overall, its a good movie to watch on a weekend when you are bored. Would I recommend going to the theater to watch it. Probably not, unless you are bored and want to get out of the house.

Rating- 2.5/5

Admission is in select theaters now.

Review- Olympus Has Fallen

Olympus Has Fallen

The story of The White House under siege and one ex Secret Service agent’s attempt to save the President of the United States.

When you have Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart and Morgan Freeman in one movie, it deserves to be seen at least once in a theater. Before I begin to talk about the movie, I should preface by saying that this story would only be possible in a movie and would not be a feasible in real life. One of the dialogues in the movie is “I took down the White House in 13 minutes.”. When I heard that, I thought to myself that this story in a movie is awesome but would not be a real life situation for sure. Alright, now that we have gotten that out of the way, lets get to the characters first.

Aaron Eckhart plays Ben Asher who is POTUS (President of the United States), Gerrard Butler plays Mike Banning, an ex Special Forces who is in the President’s Secret Service detail. Morgan Freeman plays Allan Tumbull, The Speaker of the House. Other charachters include Angela Bassett, Head of Secret Service, Ashley Judd as Margaret Asher, The First Lady and Finley Jacobsen as Connor Asher, Son of POTUS.

The movie starts in Camp David where the First Family is vacationing. They are getting ready to depart and tragedy strikes when one of the presidential limousines crashes. Banning is able to save POTUS but is not able to save the First Lady. Flash forward the movie continues with Banning being moved out of the President’s detail into a desk job at the Department of Justice. Tragedy strikes when he sees a plane circling over the White House and firing missiles. His instincts make him run into the White House and save the President.

The scenes where the attack takes place are very gripping and makes you think what would happen if this did occur in real life. Antoine Fuqua shows his talent as a great director of action scenes during the attack sequences. In terms of the story plot, the chain of events are very loosely tied together. Once the attackers get inside the White House, their motives deal with the Korean peninsula crisis. How it plays out on the screen is a whole different thing. In my opinion the plot gets thinner and thinner as you get into mid movie.

However, in terms of performances, Gerard Butler is top notch. You dont even realize that this guy is Scottish. His accent is completely American. I know, I did notice that :) Morgan Freeman is commanding on the screen which is not new for the veteran actor. Aaron Eckhart plays a good role as the President, but the casting could have been a bit better. I got out of the movie thinking, what if another actor had played this role.

As that thought was crossing my mind, my friend told me that there is another movie coming out with the same premise. Its called White House Down starring Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx. First thing that crossed my mind is, they got it right in terms of casting for the President, but probably did not cast the right for the guy saving the President in the movie. The ideal casting in my opinion would be Gerard Butler as the good guy and Jamie Foxx or even Bruce Greenwood as the President (he played it in the National Treasure series already).

Rating- 2.5/5

Olympus has Fallen is in theaters now.

Review- Life of Pi

The story of a Tiger and a young boy lost at sea.

The story of a Tiger and a young boy lost at sea.

It is tough for me to write a review for a movie which has already won the Best Picture at the 2013 Academy Awards. During the past years, I have tried to watch all the movies nominated for Oscars right after the awards. I was following the same process this year and after the awards show, I watched “Life of Pi” while traveling from Toronto to Windsor. I have to start by saying that, this movie will change the way you think about basic things in life which includes water, food, courage and standing up for yourself.

The movie starts off with a writer in Canada trying to get a book published about the story of Pi Patel, an Indian immigrant to Canada from Pondicherry, India. His full name is Piscine Molitor Patel and was named after a pool in France. The movie also deals with childhood bullying in India due to weird names that parents give their children. To avoid being called “Pissing Patel” the whole time, he changes his name to Pi (the math symbol). The charachter of the young boy is very endearing to watch specially in scenes where his love for animals is shown. The first major scene to setup the relationship between the two main characters happens when Pi tries to feed the Royal Bengal Tiger (Richard Parker). His father pulls him away from the tiger and teaches him a lesson about the behavior of tiger’s by putting a goat in front of the tiger and making Pi watch how a carnivorous animal jumps on the prey.

The character of Pi is developed to be a curious, free flowing individual when Pi decides to follow Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. As he is trying to figure out his life in India, one day his father decides to sell their zoo animals and move to Winnipeg, Canada. They decide to move to Canada through a Japanese cargo ship and take all the animals with them. Disaster strikes and the ship is hit with a storm and Pi is not able to save his parents. He ends up on a life boat with an injured zebra and an orangutan. As Pi comes to senses with the reality of the situation, he is also joined by a hyena who ends up killing the zebra and orangutan. As Pi realizes that he is next, suddenly a tiger jumps out of the tarp of the boat and kills the hyena. This scene changes so fast that you put yourself in Pi’s shoes and imagine one question “Would I rather be killed by a hyena or a Royal Bengal Tiger?”

As the story progresses at sea, the story revolves around how both of them keep away from each other as long as there is food and water to keep them alive. The constant up and down in the screenplay keeps you thinking what would be happening next and whether the tiger will kill Pi or the other way around (yes, that thought did cross my mind). Without giving much away from the movie, the best scene in the movie in my opinion is the goodbye scene between the tiger and Pi. The way the director has dealt with ending the ordeal of Pi and Richard Parker is very commendable. I will also mention the screenwriter David Magee who has beautifully adapted Yann Martel’s book with the same name into a brilliant screenplay.

Moving to the awards, I think that while I was watching the movie I already knew that this movie had to win the Best Cinematography or Visual Effects award from The Academy. I was very happy when it did win both those categories in addition to winning the Best Original Score and Best Director. The Best Director award was almost a sure shot for Ang Lee given the masterpiece he had created. By the end of the night “The Life of Pi” had scored 4 Academy Awards and became the film with most wins that night.

The top notch visual effects were very visible in many of the scenes in the movie especially the ones where the sea is calm. The screenplay, direction, production design all came together to make this movie a commercial and critical success. It has already grossed over half a billion dollars worldwide according to BoxOfficeMojo report. It will be scoring big in DVD and Blu-Ray copies as well, once it comes out. Everyone will love to see the award winning visual effects and cinematography in their living room in Full HD.

A must watch movie for all.

Rating- 4.5/5.0

Life of Pi is in theaters now.

Oscars 2013- All eyes on Seth MacFarlane

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Nominees for Oscars 2013 with my predictions

Best picture

  • “Amour”
  • “Argo” Grant Heslov, Ben Affleck and George Clooney, Producers
  • “Beasts of the Southern Wild” Dan Janvey, Josh Penn and Michael Gottwald, Producers
  • “Django Unchained” Stacey Sher, Reginald Hudlin and Pilar Savone, Producers
  • “Les Misérables” Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward and Cameron Mackintosh, Producers
  • “Life of Pi” Gil Netter, Ang Lee and David Womark, Producers
  • “Lincoln” Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy, Producers
  • “Silver Linings Playbook” Donna Gigliotti, Bruce Cohen and Jonathan Gordon, Producers
  • “Zero Dark Thirty” Mark Boal, Kathryn Bigelow and Megan Ellison, Producers

Winner- ARGO

Director

  • “Amour” Michael Haneke
  • “Beasts of the Southern Wild” Benh Zeitlin
  • “Life of Pi” Ang Lee
  • “Lincoln” Steven Spielberg
  • “Silver Linings Playbook” David O. Russell

Winner- Ang Lee

Lead actor

  • Bradley Cooper in “Silver Linings Playbook”
  • Daniel Day-Lewis in “Lincoln”
  • Hugh Jackman in “Les Misérables”
  • Joaquin Phoenix in “The Master”
  • Denzel Washington in “Flight”

Winner- Daniel Day-Lewis

Lead actress

  • Jessica Chastain in “Zero Dark Thirty”
  • Jennifer Lawrence in “Silver Linings Playbook”
  • Emmanuelle Riva in “Amour”
  • Quvenzhané Wallis in “Beasts of the Southern Wild”
  • Naomi Watts in “The Impossible”

Winner- Jessica Chastain

Supporting actor

  • Alan Arkin in “Argo”
  • Robert De Niro in “Silver Linings Playbook”
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman in “The Master”
  • Tommy Lee Jones in “Lincoln”
  • Christoph Waltz in “Django Unchained”

Winner- Christoph Waltz

Supporting actress

  • Amy Adams in “The Master”
  • Sally Field in “Lincoln”
  • Anne Hathaway in “Les Misérables”
  • Helen Hunt in “The Sessions”
  • Jacki Weaver in “Silver Linings Playbook”

Winner- Anne Hathaway

Animated feature film

  • “Brave” Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman
  • “Frankenweenie” Tim Burton
  • “ParaNorman” Sam Fell and Chris Butler
  • “The Pirates! Band of Misfits” Peter Lord
  • “Wreck-It Ralph” Rich Moore

Winner- Wreck-It Ralph

Cinematography

  • “Anna Karenina” Seamus McGarvey
  • “Django Unchained” Robert Richardson
  • “Life of Pi” Claudio Miranda
  • “Lincoln” Janusz Kaminski
  • “Skyfall” Roger Deakins

Winner- Life of Pi

Costume design

  • “Anna Karenina” Jacqueline Durran
  • “Les Misérables” Paco Delgado
  • “Lincoln” Joanna Johnston
  • “Mirror Mirror” Eiko Ishioka
  • “Snow White and the Huntsman” Colleen Atwood

Winner- Les Miserables

Original song

  • “Before My Time” from “Chasing Ice” Music and Lyric by J. Ralph
  • “Everybody Needs A Best Friend” from “Ted” Music by Walter Murphy; Lyric by Seth MacFarlane
  • “Pi’s Lullaby” from “Life of Pi” Music by Mychael Danna; Lyric by Bombay Jayashri
  • “Skyfall” from “Skyfall” Music and Lyric by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth
  • “Suddenly” from “Les Misérables” Music by Claude-Michel Schönberg; Lyric by Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil

Winner- Skyfall

Adapted screenplay

  • “Argo” Screenplay by Chris Terrio
  • “Beasts of the Southern Wild” Screenplay by Lucy Alibar & Benh Zeitlin
  • “Life of Pi” Screenplay by David Magee
  • “Lincoln” Screenplay by Tony Kushner
  • “Silver Linings Playbook” Screenplay by David O. Russell

Winner- Argo

Original screenplay

  • “Amour” Written by Michael Haneke
  • “Django Unchained” Written by Quentin Tarantino
  • “Flight” Written by John Gatins
  • “Moonrise Kingdom” Written by Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola
  • “Zero Dark Thirty” Written by Mark Boal

Winner- Zero Dark Thirty

 

Review- House of Cards

 

 

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When I first saw the above poster of House of Cards in a bus stop in Downtown Toronto, I was curious why Kevin Spacey is sitting on the Lincoln chair. My first impression was that, this show will be about how he got elected President of the United States (POTUS). Then after googling it, i found out that its a Netflix series and the entire season is available on Netflix (same time in Canada as US which doesn’t happen often). I started watching it and I was pleasantly surprised to learn about the plot of the show. Another thing I noticed on the poster was Kevin Spacey’s hands dripping blood which is a great representation of the plot of the show.

Season 1 opens with a newly elected President and Kevin Spacey standing in the Capitol for the presidential inauguration with other elected members of the Congress. He stars as the Democrat Congressman from South Carolina, Frank Underwood. The first season primarily deals with him seeking revenge against the newly elected administration for not keeping their promise of giving him the post of Secretary of State. Being the House Majority Whip Leader, he is simply brilliant in the role of an articulate politician who is ruthless and calm at the same time. The show is written by Beau Willimon who also wrote the play Farragut North which was adapted into the film The Ides of March starring George Clooney and Ryan Gosling. So when it comes to primaries, electoral college system, presidential elections, Beau Willimon has walked the walk before.

The first half of the season revolves around how Frank decides to make affairs of the Congress public by leaking information to a rookie reporter Zoe Barnes (played by Kate Mara). Zoe and Frank’s relationship is one of the major aspects of the show as it changes with the season progressing towards the finale. The stereotypes of a relationship between a Congressman and a young reporter do come true as the season progresses which also affects Frank’s ability to wield his power among the White House bigwigs. The second half of the season keeps you intrigued as to what Frank’s final motives are and I can promise you that one gets pleasantly surprised by the end of the season. The screenplay is very well written and collides with real life political scandals, scenarios in Washington. Without giving much away from the final episodes, I will say that having followed US politics deeply, I was surprised with one of the plot lines where a member of the current executive branch of government is contemplating running for Governor of a state. For the purposes of drama and TV show ratings, it works; but in real life Washington, I doubt any member of the Executive branch of the highest form of government will give up that kind of power and influence easily.

Other players in the show include Congressman Peter Russo (played by Corey Stoll), Frank’s charming and ambitious wife Claire Underwood (played by Robin Wright) and Frank’s chief of staff/confidante/go-to-guy Doug Stamper (played by Michael Kelly). All the above charachters have been cast perfectly for the role but the one that steals the show is Claire. Her relationship with Frank is one that is a roller coaster with absolutely no resemblance to usual relationships between two powerful and strong minded individuals. This is what makes the show even more interesting. The plot line of introducing Adam Galloway (played by Ben Daniels) who is having an affair with Claire was very subtle but it yields a great deal of tension in the story.

The show is entirely about how a husband and wife combination ensure that they don’t loose their power and influence in Washington. With regards to the performances, Kevin Spacey is at his best in the show. He once again proves that he is worthy of the Golden Globe, Emmy and SAG award for his portrayal of Congressman Francis J. Underwood. Fans of the actor will be in for a treat with House of Cards as they wont have to wait for a week between episodes.

The show will be having a Season 2 as Netflix is committed to two seasons from the start. In my opinion, this new way of TV show production will be ideal to get new fans for upcoming TV shows. It is also great for upcoming writers to think about the entire season from the onset making it easier to produce.

Rating- 3.5/5

House of Cards Season 1 can be seen on Netflix.

 

 

Movie Review- Identity Thief

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More and more movies in Hollywood are adopting the premise of buddy comedies with big stars to make decent money at the box office. With a similar premise comes Identity Thief starring fan favorites Jason Bateman (Arrested Development) and Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids). Walking into Identity Thief expecting a detailed plot and twists would not be the best thing to do a moviegoer. If you want a couple of hours of amazing comedy and great fun, then it is a perfect movie. The story revolves around a analog minded Jason Bateman who has a picture perfect family in suburbia and a job in accounting for an insurance company. His interest in making more money coupled with unfair practices for bonuses practiced by senior management leads him to jump ship. While this debacle is happening in his well laid out professional life, his identity is stolen by a woman in Florida, a state he has never visited in his life. The story is perfect for a Jason Bateman movie as he can be at his best in a very vulnerable situation, more so when the problem is something he was forced into due to circumstances. Overall, the movie is a great mix of amazing one liners, fights between victims of Melissa McCarthy’s crimes and Jason Bateman. Having seen the comedic talents of Melissa McCarthy, I have no problem in saying that this is a complete Melissa McCarthy entertainer. Being an Arrested Development fan, I was expecting it to be a Jason Bateman show, but without Melissa McCarthy, the movie would just be another season of Arrested Development (which i wouldn’t mind).

Rating- 3/5

Identity Thief is in theaters now.

Review of A Good Day to Die Hard

Writing a review for a Die hard movie is like writing a page in a history book. Ever since John McClane came into being in the 1988 blockbuster Die Hard, the phrase Die Hard has become a benchmark in the action genre. Having been a “die hard” fan of the movies since I was a kid, I went in with big expectations for the fifth movie.

The things I look for in a Die Hard movie that I looked for in this movie as well: (Easier to make a list of things)
1. John McClane- Check
2. A good/decent plot
3. Action-Check
4. Explainable action
5. Tension during the movie in order to grip you to your seats
6. Gripping dialogue
7. Characters (both negative and positive traits)

Now having gone through the list above, you can see that other than John McClane and action, there is nothing concrete in the fifth version of Die Hard. The plot revolves around John (Jack) McClane Jr. who is involved in a sticky situation in Russia as John tries to visit his son to mend his relations with him. During the course of the movie, we see characters introduced in quick successions with no indication of the overall plot. The term “various crosses over double cross” would be an understated definition of the plot of Die Hard 5.

Bruce Willis is clearly one of the top actors in Hollywood. He still commands a decent box office draw compared to a Johnny Depp or Tom Cruise movie. Top that with the fan frenzy of Die Hard and no doubt the movie will be huge success. In terms of how well it will be received among the fans of the franchise, very unlikely that it will be a satisfactory one.

Coming from a Die Hard fan, there are some aspects of the movie that are utterly obnoxious in terms of a story. Without giving any spoilers for the movie, I was personally tired of the phrases “Shut Up” “Aitta boy” and “My boy”. If you take these phrases out of the dialogues for Bruce Willis, you will be left with probably half a page of dialogue for him for the entire movie. For a Die Hard movie with Bruce Willis not even speaking the most dialogue is something that will not be received well again among the fans of the franchise.

It disappoints me on a very personal level to have watched a Die Hard movie that did not live up to the expectations of the franchise. Len Wiseman, please come back for Die Hard 6.

Overall rating- 2.5/5.0

The movie opened on February 14th 2013 and is in theatres now.

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