Alfred Hitchcock is known as the master of suspense. But to me, he is more than that. His films exude the kind of charm that we seldom enjoy these days in thrillers. There are practically very few thrillers that would merit a second view after we know the plot. Contrary to this current scenario, Hitchcock made thrillers like “Dial M For Murder” that I have seen at least a dozen times knowing every dialog, every sequence and where the story was headed next. What was it that brought me back to this film? It was the film’s indelible charm and the wonderfully nuanced performances. But more than anything else, it was Hitchcock’s deft direction that made a masterpiece out of films like this that in lesser hands would have ended up short of greatness. This is a film that has inspired thrillers all across the globe. Even India’s very own Abbas-Mustan made it into the crappy Humraaz. However, even with such bad rip-offs and the sands of time, Dial M For Murder hasn’t lost its charm one bit.

Tony Wendice (Ray Milland) was an ace tennis player who lets go of his passion to be a better husband to hisdial-m-for-murder-3 wife Margot (Grace Kelly) after, he comes to know of an affair that she is having with a writer Mark Halliday (Robert Cummings). He knows that a broken relationship will result in him losing the fortunes that his wife has and would incapacitate his rather luxurious life style. But he still harbors hatred for her and starts planning to murder her. He soon meets an old friend Legate from his college days who has secrets of his own. Tony successfully lures and blackmails him into murdering his wife. He plans the episode meticulously and Lesgate almost succeeds but as luck would have it, Margot overpowers and kills him trying to save her own self. When Tony comes to know of this, he intelligently restructures his plan to fit the current scenario and have his wife hanged for premeditated murder of Lesgate. He almost gets through with it.

If you look at this film closely, it’s just a few men talking among themselves. There isn’t much of action. There isn’t that much of drama either. The film mostly unfolds inside a few rooms. Whatever little shots of the outside world are there look shockingly fake and manufactured. But the manner in which the screenplay is written, the dialogs among the men and the acting of the entire cast, is just spellbinding. You as the viewer know from the very beginning who the guilty party is and yet somehow the film maintains an incredible control on your interest and senses. I found myself cheering for Tony, for a rather large portion of the film. Even though he is doing something wrong but his wife was wrong too in having an affair and he somehow extracts my sympathy and support for himself. That has a lot to do with the way Milland portrays the character.

He is so very likeable that I can almost guarantee that anyone and everyone who will see this film will be forced to like his character even if it is for the initial parts. The strongest scenes that he has are the ones he shares with the character of Lesgate, earlier on and then towards the end with Halliday when Halliday interestingly asks him to take the fall for Margot (who is about to be hanged) telling the police exactly the same story that was actually the case. Halliday’s character assumes significance towards the end even though initially he has little to do. Anthony Dawson plays Lesgate with conviction. The manner in which he engages in a give and take with Milland is wonderful to watch. It sets up the mood for the rest of the film. The only complain that I have from his character is the manner in which he dies. Even though that was not his call but of the director, but the way he falls and gets up again and then falls again is just too dramatic for the situation. His body movements where somewhat funny.  Grace Kelly is beautiful and she plays the wife torn between a fast changing husband and a flame perfectly. She not only looks the part but extracts emotions for her character which really works well for the film. John Williams plays the investigating inspector and his essay though limited is absolutely charming.

While researching for this review, I found something interesting about this film. Even though it’s hard to believe but Dial M For Murder was made by Hitchcock keeping in mind the 3D format in which the film was supposed to be shown. It was a format which was a craze at that time and Hitch thought why not to use the same in a setting that was not actually a calling for a third dimension. But as you watch the film closely, you find that the film was shot keeping in mind the format. Special mention can be made of the scene where Margot is struggling with Legate to save herself and she outstretches her hand, the scene where Hubbard reveals the key and we get a close-up of it and many more. I immediately searched for the 3D version of the film online. I couldn’t find any but there were some scenes in 3D on YouTube. After watching these scenes I can safely say that what the 3D does for this film is create some interesting visual chemistry between the characters and how they are shot considering the fact that the film unfolds primarily in one room. In doing so the screenplay and the 3rd dimension lets the audience be a part of the search and mystery behaving like an invisible man hidden in the very same room behind tables, chairs, vases etc. and getting a first person perspective on the things happening in the room. The distances between the objects and the characters extracts this illusion perfectly and helps you immerse better in the proceedings.

The film uses very little music and fanfare and that in many ways effects the film positively. The audience’s attention is dawn only to the performances and the structure of the screenplay rather than music and frills. The cinematography is top notch. Even though the film plays out in a single room, the camera angles, the art design and the manner in which the scenes play out keep things interesting. Not to mention the emphasis of the visuals on the performances. There are just about enough close-ups and mid-range shots to put you in the best possible place to see and judge the feelings of the players. Dial M For Murder is one of the best films of Hitchcock. It is also one of the most endlessly re-watchable films of the man. I have seen it before and I will be watching it many times more. Even though it is adapted directly from a play, it is candidly cinematic in its representation of the subject matter. The 3D would, in fact, give you a very similar feeling to watching a play thanks to the depth of field and the distances between the objects that the format conveys so very well.  If you are a lover of the genre and Hitchcock’s work, this is a must watch. Even if you are not, it’s still a very desirable watch.

Rating : 4/5 (4 out of 5 Stars)

Nicholas Winding Refn has this unique ability to make films that you may love or hate, but you simply cannot ignore. I still haven’t been able to sit through “Only God Forgives”, but I keep hearing and reading about it even today, years after its release. The Neon Demon is his latest offering and it is easily one of the most polarizing and thought provoking films of the year. There are many who are finding its crazy third act too much to fathom while there are also those who are going all ga ga about it. I fall somewhere in the middle of those two categories as I neither hated nor actually drooled over the choices that Refn makes towards the end. In this review I would dwell deep into the film with lots of spoilers. So for all those who haven’t seen it before, I urge you all to watch the film first and then come back to this review.

The story stars with our protagonist Jesse (Elle Fanning) undertaking a photo-shoot. The film lingers long enough on the shoot to give us a The Neon Demonproper look at the art. Jesse is covered in blood and lying still on a chair with the photographer Dean (Karl Glusman), who also happens to be an associate of her, that we come to know later, taking her picture. He seems to be a creepy guy by the way he looks at her. After the photo-shoot, we are introduced to Ruby (Jena Malone), who happens to be a makeup artist. She is overly sweet to Jesse and the two immediately strike off a friendship. Ruby introduces Jesse to two more top models. While one of them loves the way she looks and compliments her, the other looks at her with some contempt. Jesse doesn’t help the matter by passing some displeasing remarks on one of them. The four then immerse themselves in a show which is highly cerebral in nature.

Following the night-out, Jesse meets the head of a top modeling agency, who is smitten by her beauty right away. Jesse confesses to being sixteen years old to which the head tells her to always tell others that she was nineteen years old and not an year older. Jesse is quickly called for a test photo-shoot with a top of the line photographer. On the day of the shoot, Jesse has to strip down completely as the creepy photographer shoots her in gold. As she completes the photo-shoot and comes out, Jesse meets Ruby who asks her to be careful of the men in the industry and asks her to give her a call whenever she needs. Jesse tastes unprecedented success. She is soon selected by one of the top designers to be the show stopper for his collection. This doesn’t go well with Sarah (Abbey Lee), one of the two models she met in the show earlier. In the washroom, after the selections, Sarah assaults Jesse. She somehow escapes and finds solace in the company of Dean at her own house.

Even at her own home she is somehow harassed by Hank (Keanu Reeves), the owner of the house that she rents. In a bizarre episode, Jesse finds a leopard in her room one night when she returns from her date with Dean. Hank goes to the extent of making her boyfriend Dean pay for the damages caused by the leopard, which he believes could enter the room only because, Jesse kept the door open. However on the professional front, Jesse excels. She soon meets Gigi (Bella Heathcote), the second of the two models she met earlier at the show with Ruby. Gigi is a pro and has been in the industry for a very long time. Jesse, however, in a last moment change by the designer, gets to be the show stopper. This hurts Gigi badly.

Post the show, Jesse’s attitude changes completely. She shuns Dean out of her life and gets obsessed with herself. She overhears what she believes to be a savage episode involving Hank and another tenant of his. She calls up Ruby and asks to spend the night with her. Ruby obliges. While in her house, Ruby makes sexual advances on her which she refuses. Ruby, as we already know is a makeup artist who also helps transitioning the dead in their final passage. She is also into necrophilia as we see in a brief but shattering sequence. Jesse, by now has completely become obsessed about herself. There is a sequence which inter-cuts between Ruby having a sexual innuendo with a corpse and Jesse touching herself which shows us the two sides of the same coin. While Jesse is completely immersed in herself which happens to be her obsession, Ruby has sex with a corpse which is her obsession.

Following that sequence, the two meet by the empty swimming pool for a while where Jesse boasts a final time about her natural beauty. She is all dressed up. Following this sequence, she is attacked by Ruby, Gigi and Sarah and the three end up eating her. They then take a bath cleansing her blood that was on them. This sequence resembles a coven of witches doing their will on a moonlight night. They go about their daily routines the next day. While Gigi and Sarah join the same hotshot photographer, who made Jesse’s first professional portfolio, for a new and coveted assignment, now that Jesse was out of the way, Ruby unleashes her woman hood under a moonlit sky. Gigi is however unable to accept what she had done to Sarah and commits suicide trying to take out Jesse from her Body but not before regurgitating a partly digested eye ball. Sarah, on the contrary is totally cool about the episode and lives on comfortably.

The film uses the color palette and editing to highlight important aspects of the characters of the film. While the first half uses neon and bluish hues a lot, the second half uses reds as a sign of the demon. It must also be noted that scenes involving the leopard and the final unleashing of the bodily fluids of Ruby are not only metaphorical expressions of the sense that the director wants to convey but also finds a real life manifestation implying the arrival of the demon in the life of Jesse in the first instance and the high that Ruby experiences eating her in the second. The men in the film are portrayed as strange and creepy and they are in-fact the only ones who are good. While Dean in the best of the lot who actually wants to save Jesse, even Hank is never shown doing any harm to Jesse apart from the dream sequence which is totally her mental manifestation. However, the women, who try to be nice and comforting to her end up eating her.

The eating up of Jesse is as much a physical act as it is a symbol of consuming her beauty. Jesse was beautiful and nothing else. She had nothing but her beauty and that in the end proved to be her biggest enemy. The matter is made worse by her vanity and a feeling of pride that she acquires as she goes ahead in the industry. The film makes it a point to nail down the fact that Jesse is nothing more than a ravishing beauty. At many junctures we find her sense of humor and even her sense of talking what’s right, to be very dumb. She hasn’t completed high school and shuns her only friend and the one who did her first portfolio in a matter of seconds. Thus it is proved that she is not only dumb but very selfish as well. It also shows us that the world has tendency of taking away the most intimate of your possessions, characterized here by physical beauty. It’s interesting to see Jesse dump Dean in a moment when he was in a verbal duel with someone to highlight that Jesse has inert goodness which attracted him more than her external beauty.

The Neon demon is one twisted film that you need to see multiple times to actually grasp the thoughts that went into making this film. It’s really tough to get it in the first go but on multiple views, things start getting clearer. On the question whether or not it is good, the answer is not simple. This is a film that will be hated by the people who are in for the simpler fair. On the contrary it will be loved by those who live and breathe by art-films. It is open to varied interpretations and outlooks, which makes it a film that has a lot of re-see value. The material on display is not exactly entertaining or for family audiences, which will take away a lot of viewers. This here is a film which will cater to a niche audience and my rating is in keeping with that niche audience. If this is not the kind of film you like, then just don’t get into it. However if you do, chances are you might just adopt an acquired taste.

Rating : 3.5/5 (3.5 out of 5 Stars)

Don’t Breathe is the kind of nightmare that you wake up crying for your mama. It is a wildly scary and edge-of-the-seat thriller that works on varied levels. The film is relentless from start to finish and even after it reaches a point where you think that all is done, it just keeps coming at you from different angles. I heard great things about this film from one and all who had seen this film. So naturally, my expectations of the film were high. That’s not always a good thing as it might sometimes make the film lesser as your expectations soars. That was not the case here as the film literally blew me away.

A group of small-time thieves Rocky, Alex and Money get into the house of a blind Iraq-war veteran getting a tip that he might be having a stash of cash that he received as compensation. Little do they know that the man is a fearsome killer who would stop at nothing to protect something else that he has hidden which is not exactly the cash that the team came after. One of the team members gets killed straight away and as soon as the man realizes that there are two more in his house, the remaining two have to fight for their lives as the man and his equally dangerous dog comes all guns blazing against the remaining two.

The film unfolds in a claustrophobic setting and yet somehow there are enough surprises round the corner to catch you off guard. It gives you a kind of feeling of getting a massive open world scenario inside the bounds of a house. The sound designing and the lighting is perfect which really make you feel that you are inside the house of a blind man. The director does well to keep the proceedings utterly believable. There is a few lapse of composure here and there but that can be pardoned as the film is so very relentless. The action too is kept highly organic and believable.

Stephen Lang plays the blind man with gusto. He is brilliant and scary at the same place. His mannerisms are in strong keeping with the character and the physicality that he brings to the role is overwhelming. I didn’t know whether to root for him or hate him. At least for the first hour or so, I was rooting for him as he was the man who was being wronged but after the interval, there comes an expose which proves that he is a monster of a different class. Post that expose the film trades a path that many didn’t like but I felt that it ended as best as it could have.

Jane Levy, the girl from the most recent Evil Dead film does great. She has her own reasons for getting into the robbery and time and again her need makes her take steps that put her in deeper and deeper danger. Her acting is spot on here. I just loved the way she deals with the terror that her character faces as she witnesses her boyfriend being shot in the face and is unable to make even a sound. As the story progresses she is subjected to some more terrifying situations and you can feel her fear and anger through Levy’s essay. The climax, however, takes the cake. The final showdown with the dog and the blind man will make you curl into a ball. Dylan Minnette has a longer role here and he doesn’t disappoint. He feels the part that he essays and playing the friend zoned dude who sacrifices it all for the girl he loves will find takers among many.

Don’t Breathe has its share of jump scares. They are not the cheap kind but are apt and work perfectly well in the situations where they are extracted. I loved the first sequence when the group realizes the power of the man they are up against. The sequence in the basement and the ones involving the dog are utterly fearsome. I keep mentioning the dog because, for a long time, I haven’t been frightened by one in the manner in which this one did. You must watch this film to understand what I mean exactly. Once you have done so, I believe you will agree with me. Another huge plus for the film is its eerie setting and the dramatic spates of violence that pop up every now and then.

Overall, Don’t Breathe is a superb thriller that works well in every department. Its antagonist, if you may call the blind man so, turns it into an almost horror film. If you don’t have the stomach for films involving bloodshed, jump scares, gross violations and fearsome figures, steer clear of this one. For all those who enjoy this kind of fares, this is one of the most rollicking films of the year.

Rating : 4.5/5 (4.5 out of 5 Stars)

Mechanic: Resurrection is a follow up to the 2011 Mechanic film starring Jason Statham and Ben Foster which was in itself a remake of a 1972 Mechanic film Staring Charles Bronson. This is a film which was totally unnecessary. They just didn’t have to make it. If they really felt so very inspired to gun for a sequel, they should have written a better script. This here is a film that is stupid and cliché beyond what suspension of disbelief can let you take in. I never expected anything realistic or brilliantly cinematic from this film but what I got was way inferior to what I have come to expect from a Jason Statham movie. I have seen him in a similar kind of a role probably a dozen times over and over again but he never failed to entertain me except this time around.

Arthur Bishop has settled into a more subdued existence then his days as a Mechanic. However, a contract involving three impossible kills finds its way to him. He refuses. He is baited, he understands the bait and yet somehow falls for the same bait. The bait in question here is Jessica Alba. The villains kidnap Jessica Alba and now force him to undertake the task anyways. He then goes around the globe to kill three men and make them all look like accidents. The rest of the film is a lot of planning and slow fuse executions of the plans as he goes after his targets. What is left to be seen is whether he is able to save the love of his life or not.

I really liked the 2011 version of the Mechanic. It had some real drama and intriguing moments like when Statham and Foster’s character gelled. Moments when they hit targets together and finally when they turned against each other. In this film, however, whatever time is spent on the development of the plot, it is totally wasted. None of us are going to care for the relation between Alba and Statham’s character as it is developed in the space of days. Also, both Statham and Alba feel very aloof of each other and not for a second do you feel that surge of passion that could have rendered their connection real. Once the initial setup is liquidated, the rest just feels like an excuse for letting Statham do what he does. Kick some butt!

Coming to the action, the film has its share of action sequences. That’s hardly a surprise but is it really that good ? I felt not only were the stunts implausible, some of them were just plain idiotic. Jumping from a rope-way car to a hang-glider, a gun that has a clip to accommodate 50 bullets, a grenade that blasts and impacts only what’s in front and makes no damage behind. The list is long and I don’t want you guys to fall asleep. Statham also feels a little slow in his actions. The hand to hand combats are fewer. The physicality of the action is toned down which I could easily feel. I have been following his films since Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. A time when he acted more than he threw around punches.

Statham’s performance was very flat too. That’s something which is not expected. I could practically see him sleep walk through his romantic sequences with Alba. The planning parts were done with as little fuss as possible. The showdown with Tommy Lee Jones’ character should have been rollicking but is absolutely not. With the action sequences too lacking the power, the film just fell flat on its face. Alba is beautiful and honestly speaking she had nothing to do. So there is just no point lambasting her performance. Ditto can be said about the character of Tommy Lee Jones who is nothing more than an extended cameo.

Overall, Mechanic: Resurrection was a huge disappointment. The lack of credible action, the boring and stupid screenplay and an unexpectedly flat performance from Statham spoilt this film for me. Many are citing the comic one-liners as a good thing for this film and reiterating the fact that how fun this film was. I beg to disagree. I felt that this was a film which would have done well with a similar serious tone that its predecessor had. It just adds insult to injury by trying to be fun instead of physical.

Rating : 2/5 (2 out of 5 Stars)

Cold Creek Manor released in 2003. I was in the 9th standard at that time and I often visited a video store where the DVD of the film was put up. I wanted to buy the glistening copy but never had enough money to buy it. A few days back I visited the same video store in my town and found a copy of the 13-year-old DVD still hidden among some other stuff in the store. The DVD appealed to me just as much as it did when I didn’t have the money to buy it. But this time around, I had enough to buy it. I brought the film home and popped it on to my home theater for a Saturday Night viewing.

The film tells the story of the Cooper and Leah Tilson, a family living in New York, who realize that they need to move to the country to be able to raise their children better. Leah is a hotshot executive while Cooper is an independent documentary filmmaker. Their son Jesse lands up in an almost fatal accident in New York traffic which catalyzes the parent’s decision to move to the country. They start hunting for a house and finally zero in on a dilapidating manor known as the Cold Creek Manor.

Once they shift to the manor, strange incidents start happening which makes Cooper question the past of the manor and dig deeper to unravel the truth behind its previous occupants. One of the previous occupants, Dale, returns from his prison term and starts making contact with the Tilsons. They welcome him at first, but his questionable actions here and there, his past as a convict and Cooper’s own suspicions about the man makes him question the fact whether Dale is actually who he shows himself to be. Soon things get out of hand and the Tilsons have to literally fight for their existence and to hold on to their manor.

I will start with the positives. Cold Creek Manor is well acted. Dennis Quaid and Sharon Stone have a great chemistry. Dennis Quaid plays a man who is not exactly strong or for that matter attractive. He also gets easily jealous when he sees his wife giving attention to other men. He is not exactly successful but is passionate about his work. When things start getting bad, he crumbles which lets the viewers identify with him. This really works well to transpose the thrill and drama of the film to the audiences. Leah’s character is a typical career-istic type. She does well for herself and in continuing in the spree is almost about to stoop down to a level from which she might never rise. It is at this juncture that she decides to abandon all and try to be the perfect wife and mother. But still, throughout the narratives, you are bound to see flashes of her desire to break free into a questionable relationship, especially with Dale. Thus the organic frictions caused by these two characters add a sense of thrill to the narrative.

The film also tries to lure you into a misdirection by making you think this film to be a horror film. There are certain aspects of it which make you think that a supernatural entity may be involved in whatever was happening to the Tilsons. This misdirection works well initially but once the cards are revealed it makes the viewer feel cheated which is not a good thing for the film. The two kids one of whom is played by Kristen Stewart are also a tad bit too cool in the face of odds for the liking. They just don’t convey the same horror and fear that would have made the drama that much more fearsome.

Stephen Dorff plays Dale. He is the mysterious character that you just can’t find out whose side he is on. His essay is likable. He works especially well in the scenes where he has a one to one with the Dennis Quaid’s character. The two really cook up an absorbing drama in which you feel that either one of the two will at any point of time snap and pummel the other. The film has at least two chilling sequences that will remain with me for a long time. One involving a plethora of snakes that torment each and every Tilson separately at the same time. The other is the gritty climax that really worked well for me. I could practically feel each and every blow and the physicality of it.

Coming to the cons, the film has a lot of it. The pace is slow. Even though it uses the pace to establish a connection between the characters and the audience, the slow proceedings seriously make you disinterested at many junctures.  There are sequences devoted to issues that are never brought up again. The believability factor also takes a toll on the narrative. The reasons for which the family shifts is really weak. Who leaves a house in New York for a pesky little accident that didn’t even happen? How can the country be a better place to raise children than New York? Also, what is the source of the great wealth of the Tilsons that makes a failed filmmaker and a wife who is miraculously on a year-long leave afford such lavish lifestyle? The final revelation is so ordinary that it is hardly rewarding enough for you to have sat through a two-hour long film hoping for it to surprise you in the end. The film finds out one of the basic and easiest resolutions to the whole issue. The unraveling of the mystery part is also done in a hurry. Dale’s character gets cheesy really soon and the things he does quickly start feeling impossible. That also hurts the film towards the end.

Final thoughts! Cold creek Manor has a lot of nostalgia associated for me and that’s one of the reasons why I like it more than many others. I also felt that Quaid, Stone and Dorff did well with their characters and their drama holds on to your attention. The film has at least two decent edge-of-the-seat sequences and they merit a view at least. What it needed was more thrills, better writing and more innovating resolution to an interesting plot that was building up. It could also do with a cut short runtime.

Rating: 2.5/5 (2.5 out of 5 Stars)  

Now You See Me was a fresh and organic tale about four magicians as they go about performing and robbing major players. They would then distribute the same wealth among the people. Now You See Me 2 uses the same techniques and acts that made its predecessor one of the most entertaining films of the year. It has the tricks, the charm, the comedy and all the men who brought their A game to the table. But there is just one little problem with this film. It has lost its novelty. The methods incorporated to thrill, the tricks, the magic and above all, the performances feel very redundant. By that, I don’t mean that this is a bad film. But it is nowhere near as good as its predecessor.

The Horsemen are in hiding waiting for their next mission. As they grow impatient, Now Atlas tries to contact “The Eye”. Dylan introduces a new team member, Lula and also gives them a new target. While unmasking a computer conglomerate called OCTA, that is putting the privacy of the citizen on the open market, the Horsemen are exposed themselves as their covers are blown. Even Dylan is exposed in front of the FBI who are now vying for his arrest. The Four Horsemen are then kidnapped by a mysterious computer genius, Walter Mabry who wants them to steal a device that has the ability to control any system in the world anywhere. Will the righteous Horsemen submit to a tyrannical businessman? What happens of Dylan? Will they be able to get the better of Mabry? These are some of the questions that drives the narrative of the film.

This film tries every trick in the book to be mysterious and fresh and different from its predecessor but ends up being exactly like its predecessor. The first film had a truckload of magic tricks that were elaborate and explained properly to ensure that they made sense. Here the tricks are rushed and more emphasis is paid to sequences that should have been cut short. I sort of liked the towering persona of the horsemen in the first film where they wouldn’t put a single wrong step forward. Here however they are shown vulnerable which may be a good thing sometimes. Unfortunately, here it just takes away the gusto from the characters. There are spates of boredom that sets in and in a film like this that is just unpardonable. The difference in direction shows as the biggest problem with this film is the manner in which it is directed.

The performances are consistent but I felt that most of the actors were sleepwalking through their roles. Jesse Eisenberg and Mark Ruffalo had the meatiest of roles and they don’t disappoint you but the sense of urgency from the first film was completely missing. There was a comfort in their act and it felt that they knew what was about to happen and that really took away a lot from their characters. They are never really threatened. There had to be a sense of tension for the comedy and drama to work. Woody Harrelson was ok but to have two times of him in a film was asking for overdose. The character of Chase was unnecessary and he really gets on your nerves. Lizzy Caplan is an able replacement and she oozes charm and confidence. Dave Franco sleepwalks through his role. He is just not important enough to make an impact. Daniel Radcliffe as the evil Walter Mabry is fresh and exciting. However, his character is very limited and that leaves little room for him to make an impact. Michele Caine is passable. This is far from his worst. Morgan Freeman’s character goes through a lot of change here which I believe will be another make or break thing for the fans of the franchise.

Now You See Me 2 is extremely fast paced. Through its speed, it tries to camouflage some of its inherent deficiencies like logic, reason and above all feasibilities of different tricks that the protagonists perform. While the first film was very believable and relatable, the magic here feels more like CGI which does play a spoilt sport. The film needed more coherence in the writing department, better magic tricks, more organic performance and a lot more fun to be as good as its predecessor. I know it’s not a good thing to compare but when a film is called Now You See Me 2, the comparisons are inevitable. The fact that the expectations are high from this film will only make the matter worse for it.

Rating : 2/5 (2 out of 5 Stars)

The Man Who Knew Infinity is a retelling of acclaimed Indian mathematician S. Ramanujan’s life from his initial years in India trying to find a decent living and get his work published to his journey to England where under the care and guidance of G.H. Hardy, he made sweeping discoveries which would go on to shape the way people looked at many mathematical concepts. The film also shows how hard he had to toil to establish his theories and also that ultimate moment of bliss when he is accepted as a fellow of Royal College. The film not only shows his struggle but devotes ample time to show the efforts of Hardy, his mentor to ensure that he gets his due.

This isn’t a film for all. Even though it has enough material to stretch its narrative to the man who knew 2 hours, the content will appeal only to those who have a knack for slow burning tales where the emphasis is more on the performances than the dramatic twists and turns. We are all aware of the story of Ramanujan and what he came to be. Thus there is no surprise element in the tale also. The film heavily banks on the performances of Dev Patel as Ramanujan and Jeremy Irons as Hardy and thankfully their acts are absorbing enough to hold on to your attention. The film has a brief lull at the beginning when Ramanujan is in India, toiling his way to breaking free. These are the scenes that are a tad bit preachy and somewhat boring.

the man who knew Once he arrives in England, the proceedings get faster. The initial time is spent in establishing Ramanujan’s prowess and then the narrative shifts to the development of his uncanny friendship and association with Hardy. The film has its strongest moments when the two are communicating. While Hardy wants Ramanujan to prove his theorems, Ramanujan is shocked at Hardy’s disbelief of his Theorem’s validity. It’s delightful to see the expressions of Dev Patel every time Hardy calls his solutions intuitive and his brilliance intuition. The scene where Ramanujan lashes out at him is one of the strongest scenes of the film. The picture is carried forward by this kind of scenes that happen often in the second half.

Dev Patel is a good actor when he gets a role that suits his personality. He was good in Slumdog Millionaire and he the man who knew is brilliant here. You can actually feel his desperation and angst in scenes where he lashes out. The portion where he is sick is also extremely convincing. Even his romance with his wife, which to a large extent was fictional is very convincing and touching. He shares a great chemistry with Irons who in his own act is great. He plays the mentor to perfection. He is cold and uncaring to start with but gradually warms up to Ramanujan and finally understands the limitations of his brilliance. The manner in which he fights for the man is wonderfully brought out in the scenes towards the end. These scenes also lead up to a great climax which is thoroughly fulfilling.

The man who knew The film’s cinematography is good. Even though there wasn’t much to capture apart from interiors of classes and rooms, the DOP presents the visuals with a flair. Sufficient close-ups and lingering shots help express the feeling of the characters wonderfully. The background score is apt. However, every time we are shown South India, there is an overt desire to play the flute in the background. This is a change I have noticed ever since “Life Of Pi” made such wonderful use of the instrument to express an organic feel. However the same may not be applicable everywhere. Here it gets a tad bit repetitive. The editing is in keeping with the style and speed of the narrative and leaves no room for any complaints.

As mentioned before, The Man Who knew Infinity is a slow burning fuse. It will be liked by people who have a fetish for biopics and those who don’t mind sitting through a tale that has a leisurely pace. If you are willing to invest in the tale and the performances, this film has a lot to offer. I had a great time with this film and I believe every thinking viewer will too.

Rating: 3.5/ 5 (3.5 out of 5 Stars)

Jason Bourne is a smashing franchise that has been getting better and better with the years. When I say that I don’t take into account, The Bourne Legacy which I still felt was not as bad as many critics had you believing. However, when we have Bourne coming back after a rather long hiatus and Paul “The Man” Greengrass directing the film, we expect nothing short of an epic. That’s where the biggest problem of this film lies. It is weighed in by the mammoth expectations and to speak truly it isn’t as intense or action heavy as the other Bourne films. While the previous three films played on the plot of a master assassin looking to piece together his life and an agency hell bent on destroying him, Jason Bourne has an Edward Snowden-Esq predicament for Bourne to be the thorn in the eye of the CIA. This doesn’t always work.

The film starts strong. Bourne is in hiding. Nicky Parsons who is his only living relation, if she could be called that has finally hacked into the CIA and done away with some extremely sensitive material related to the black-ops. These files also contain information about Bourne’s father and clues to the reason behind why Bourne was being surveilled by the CIA. She raises enough questions to make Bourne come out of hiding and help her openly. The CIA learns of the hack and dispatches its asset to take down Parsons and Bourne. In the ensuing chase, Parsons is killed. Bourne loses the one surviving relation that he had in the world. He now comes at the CIA with everything that he has got. But wait! The revenge is only a subplot. The actual point is to keep the hacked data away from the web and yet make sense of it. Thus Bourne is the Snowden instead of the revenge machine that he successfully portrayed in The Bourne Supremacy.

Instead of gunning for the heads of the men who murdered Nicky, Bourne gets consumed in analyzing the data and piecing together his last moments with his father. This is by no means is a bad subplot but unfortunately, it takes away the attention from what could have been a better plot point to advance the story. The revenge. Nothing like revenge to spur action. Speaking of the action, the film does lack a lot of it. It starts off with a sensational chase sequence in Athens which takes place in the middle of a riot at night. This sequence sets the bar high for the rest of the film and unfortunately the actions that follow cannot match this high standard. What was infinitely worse was the fact that the final action sequence involving two assassins feels almost forced. The piling rubble of destroyed vehicles and the superhuman strengths of the men cannot be justified in a film that is trying to be sane to derive some believability out of its plot.

I want to ask, whose idea it was to release this film in 3D ? It is one of the most blatant wastage of 3D that I have seen in years. This is not the kind of film that should be rendered or released in 3D. Instead of adding another dimension, the 3D actually negatively affects the visuals of the film. Greengrass is known for his shaky cam style and I am not a fan of the technique. While The Bourne Ultimatum looked stunning and the shaky cam worked perfectly there, I still had some issues with the quick cuts. The quick cuts and the shaky cam here though is enough to give you a headache. The matter is made worse by the 3D. The director feels that he is expressing the chaos or tension of a moment by that technique and it has worked wonders many times. But I don’t think it did this time. He might have just gone a tad bit too far this time.

The performances are solid, though. Matt Damon is always great and he has this ability to pull off a sort of a deadpan charm that most actors cannot. He moves briskly through the action and emotes when he has to. Alicia Vikander has a substantial role and she does brilliantly. What’s best about her act is that you never know whether she is with the protagonist or is she a wolf disguised as a sheep. Tommy Lee Jones is apt as the main antagonist. He plays the exact same character as Brian Cox or David Strathairn but in his own style.

Overall, Jason Bourne is the weakest Bourne film starring Matt Damon and directed by Greengrass. It falls way short of its mark both in terms of action and drama. The 3D doesn’t help either. The mammoth expectations that I had from the film, which thankfully mellowed down with the pouring reviews, didn’t help either to make the film any better. What we needed was some more thought into the writing, some more action and probably they would have done better had they just stuck to the revenge plot. That, however, is now spilled milk under the bridge. Some other day some other movie maybe.

Rating: 3/5 (3 out of 5 Stars)

Suicide Squad is one of the most bi-polar films of recent times. When it’s good it’s terrific but when it’s bad it’s really terrible. I went into this film with very little expectations as the pouring reviews lambasted the film right, left and center. However, I somehow felt that I would enjoy it, going by what I saw in the trailers. I loved this film for at least one hour and forty-five minutes. I will speak in-depth about what I disliked about the last fifteen minutes but let’s dwell on what’s good about this film to start with. Suicide Squad has a very condensed plot if you look at it from the Squad’s perspective and though there are at least two subplots taking your attention here and there, it is advisable that you stick with the basic plot.

Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) is concerned with national security after Superman’s death. She believes that the next meta-human may not be in the image of the Man of Steel. So the humans need a backup plan. In comes the Suicide Squad. A gang of rag-tag toughies picked from the worst that the world of crime has to offer. Once assembled they are sent into a town which is under attack from a superhuman entity. While most of the town is dead, an important individual holds up in a building waiting for the squad to come and rescue him. After their initial differences and obvious dislike to be used as weapons for a government that they hate, the men finally gel and do some serious damage. In the meanwhile, the nefarious Joker is trying his best to get the love of his life Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) free from the squad.

The film is superbly entertaining to start with. The plot moves at a brisk pace. There is a lot of comedy and most of it is circumstantial and makes quite an impact. Robbie as Quinn and Will Smith as Deadshot are extremely likable. Robbie’s essay is so likable and so so in tandem with the feel of the character of Quinn that you instantly fall in love with her. She exudes hotness and dollish charm that’s hard to ignore. Smith, on the other hand, is his wisecracking self who makes the character his own. Not only does he look extremely apt in the action sequences, his portrayal brings some much-needed credibility to a character that is otherwise very one dimensional. Jared Leto as the Joker is a special attraction. He is not there for a very long time but I somehow felt that he was given a role that was long enough. In this context, his essay was better of kept short. He does a good job. There is a great chemistry between him and Quinn. Viola Davis plays an evil good guy and she is good. Joel Kinnaman has the physicality to carry the character of Flag.

The film has enough action to satisfy the action fans and even though most of it is done at nights, its shot with enough flare to let you enjoy it completely. The editing though choppy at many places still feels ok. The background score has been intentionally made in the manner that it is and it does work for most of the parts. Having said all that, the film does go horribly wrong in the last fifteen-twenty minutes. I would like to jot down point wise the things that I had a problem with.
•    Why does the government send an acrobat, a sharp shooter, a thief, an army man and two other deserving individuals to fight against a force that is superhuman?
•    How do you blast an incantation?
•    How did Harley Quinn know to cut out the heart of the Enchantress?
•    How do you blast a God using explosive minutes after he has made kids work of a furious onslaught?
•    Why did the villains leave Waller alive?
•    Where did Harley get the strength to fight the abominations?
•    Why did she come back after successfully escaping?

These are just some of the questions that remain unanswered in a film that seems to be in a real hurry to wrap up. The ending felt very hurried and as if the director was on gun point to finish it within two hours. I have seen almost all previous David Ayer films and the man is meticulous with his stuff. He leaves very little to chance.  But here he just steamrolls through the climax almost giving you a feeling of making up the story as he goes. The good work done in the film right up till this point is destroyed within minutes and what we are left with is an underwhelming experience. If it wasn’t for the ending, Suicide Squad could have been a great film. But the terrible and almost inexplicable ending that is plain out stupid pulls the film down completely.

When I walk into a film like this I know that nothing here is supposed to make sense. Its fantasy and in fantasy you are supposed to take things for what they are but it’s impossible to accept that an incantation can be blown up by a bomb. That’s even too much for me to forgive. A few re-writes and some more fantastical logic could have easily nailed the issues for the film. This is the second time in this week that a major Hollywood film has proved to be underwhelming. Suicide Squad was in the making for a long time and the ups and downs of every DC film in between seem to have affected it in some way or the other. That’s never a good thing for a film.

Rating: 3/5 (3 out of 5 Stars)

Before I wake is a gorgeous looking film that sort of paces on the line between horror and fantasy. It gives you some serious scares towards the end and some of it are the all so well-known jump scares but a large portion of the film is a fantastical journey of two adults into the dreams of an 8-year-old. The film is directed by Mike Flanagan, the man who brought us films like Oculus and the more recent Hush. I am gradually becoming a fan of his art as he is able to constantly make absorbing pictures that are both entertaining and satisfying at an emotional and aesthetic level. In Before I Wake, there were multiple scenes where I was astounded by the beauty of the visuals and the feeling that the scene was exuding. Flanagan is able to create a potent mix of both which really affects the viewers.

Before I wake tells the story of Cody (Jacob Tremblay) an eight-year-old who has lost his parents and is forced to live with foster parents. He is Before I wake adopted by Jessie (Kate Bosworth) and Mark (Thomas Jane) who have just lost their own son to an accident. Soon the parents realize that Cody is endowed with a unique gift which allows his dreams to manifest in reality. Jessie uses Cody’s powers to spend more time with his dead son while Mark feels that what she is doing is wrong. All seems well to start with but soon Cody starts having nightmares which threaten to shred apart Mark and Jessie’s life. What happens next forms the crux of the narrative.

Before I wake The film can be divided into two distinct parts. The first half is more of a fantasy wherein, Jessie Mark and Cody share in dreams. This part gives us some stunning visuals involving butterflies, Christmas Trees and Jessie-Mark’s lost son. The background score, the performances by the actors and the surreal feel of these sequences take you to a different world. The visuals have a strange grip on your sense and just like the onscreen parents, the audience also wishes that the sequence doesn’t end. These sequences also are used towards the end to extract some interesting feelings.  I won’t spoil the scenes here. It is better that you enjoy it first-hand.

The second half of the film turns into a relentless horror story. The Canker Man, which happens to be the prime antagonist here is designed superbly. He is bound to send a shiver Before I wake or two down your spine. As the story progresses, the Canker man assumes importance and meaning far beyond any horror character can ever dream of assuming. There is lies the next biggest strength of the film. Performance wise, Kate Bosworth and Thomas Jane are wonderful. I enjoyed their chemistry and they really felt like a real couple. However, I have some problem with the manner in which Bosworth reacts after such a terrible tragedy strikes her. She acts a tad bit too calm for the liking and this is the only time when the narrative of the film suffers.

Before I wake Jacob Tremblay as the kid is a revelation. He is not the creepy sort that we are used to in horror flicks. He borders more on the cute type and yet he is endowed with some breathtaking abilities which turn out to be as dreamy as it turns out to be scary. His essay is very self-conscious and that’s a huge plus for the character as it renders the character very real. The film boasts of some terrific cinematography and visual effects. I mention the visual effects for the reason that they are able to successfully create a surreal feel which is interestingly very real. The Canker Man is also rendered superbly and as I mentioned before, will send shivers down your spine.

Overall, Before I wake is a thoroughly entertaining and affecting film which will work perfectly as a fantasy as well as a horror film. It has enough to cater to lovers of both the genres. Interestingly the film hasn’t got enough attention. Flanagan has once again created something which not only speaks of his highly creative and cinematically inclined mind but also something that is highly artistic and technically sound. I will be watching this film many times over in the future.

Rating: 3.5/5 (3.5 out of 5 Stars)

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