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Tropic Thunder August 16, 2008

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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Ben Stiller’s new directorial venture is a fun ride featuring a superb cast. The film is about the botched up shooting of a war movie in Vietnam. The film in this film features a five time Oscar winning method actor who dyes his skin black to play a black man, a fading action hero most famous for a disaster movie double trilogy and a drug addicted star famous for his fart comedy. When the young director of the doomed war movie is threatened by his studio boss for not being able to control the egoistic stars, he decides to put them in the middle of some real action to make his film more natural and things go hilariously wrong.

The film, written by Ben Stiller, Justin Theroux and Etan Cohen (not the Oscar winning Ethan Coen) is pretty much a bunch of satirical/comic scenes woven around this premise, primarily taking aim at Hollywood – from studio executives to agents to actors and directors (and this is the strongpoint of the film). But the actual plot itself, if anyone is interested, is uninteresting. Most of the film is over-the-top fun featuring a lot of big laughs and also a few that fall flat. The film also features some sidesplitting fake trailers (reminded me of Om Shanti Om more than Grindhouse).

The cast has a great time in this film. Robert Downey Jr is a riot and Tom Cruise is a very pleasant surprise (it took me a while to recognize him). Ben Stiller is also quite good and gets a lot of screen time. Jack Black gets overshadowed and I didn’t find the flatulence and drug gags funny. Matthew McConaughey and Nick Nolte are the other recognizable names while more show up in short cameos (watch out for Tobey Maguire in the Satan’s Alley trailer).

Watch this film if you are game for an outlandish R-rated comedy but remember that isn’t about the plot as much as it is about the humor.

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The Incredible Hulk June 26, 2008

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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Another superhero film to whet our appetite before we can get to see what we really want to watch this summer, The Dark Knight. The Incredible Hulk isn’t anywhere as entertaining as the biggest blockbuster of the summer so far (Iron Man). But it is a watchable superhero film.

Louis Leterrier (The Transporter) directs this film written by Zak Penn. The screenplay gets a nice balance between angst and action and Leterrier handles the film well enough but it lacks the special something to make it worthy of a sequel. The film starts off nicely with Dr. Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) in a foreign land, searching for a cure and hiding from his enemies. As you’d expect, he can’t hide for long as the audience is waiting to see the Hulk. So, he is found, the Hulk appears and the film is on. On his heels are General Thaddeus (William Hurt) and Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth).

The film is different from other origin stories because it only hints at the origins in flashbacks without explaining too much (much like the Bourne films). The main premise is that Hulk is looking for something to cure him of his condition and there are others who are on his tail to capture him for their own diabolical needs. Of course, there is also the customary love interest (Liv Tyler) and this role isn’t particularly interesting. One wishes there was more humor because the tempo starts to drop a bit in the midsection. The climactic battle has a couple of nice moments but doesn’t exhilarate enough.

After Robert Downey Jr., we’ve got another respected actor turning superhero. The role is right up Edward Norton’s alley but I enjoyed Tim Roth’s turn as Abomination better. Norton also contributed to the screenplay but was refused credit by the WGA.

Leterrier has said that there is 70 minutes of additional footage waiting for the DVD release meaning that the studio got its way. It could result in a somewhat better film on DVD in the future. Or maybe not. Either way, I’m not terribly interested to check it out.

If you enjoy superhero movies, this is not a bad watch and apparently it is much better than Ang Lee’s 2003 flop that prompted this early reboot. If you are not the kind who wants to watch every superhero film out there, wait for The Dark Knight or even Will Smith’s Hancock.

P.S. Don’t get too excited by Tony Stark’s appearance on the trailers. It is just a plug for the Avengers movie and he doesn’t appear on screen for more than a few seconds.

Iron Man May 3, 2008

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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Everyone is familiar with Superman, Spiderman and Batman. A lesser known superhero from the Marvel universe makes his debut on the silver screen to deliver a rollicking start to the blockbuster season. In making his biggest and best film, director Jon Favreau (Elf, Zathura) delivers a thoroughly satisying superhero film.

Tony Stark is a charming, suave ladies man who also happens to be a genius running a weapons company. When he is on a trip to Afghanistan, demonstrating the latest weapon in his arsenal, he is captured by terrorists who want him to replicate it for them. Tony escapes by creating a suit of armor from what is available. When he comes back, Tony decides to put his talent to good use. So he perfects the suit of armor and becomes Iron Man. And then he uncovers an evil villain who he must stop.

It might not seem terribly thrilling the way I’ve summarized it but then it is really the presentation which makes this film what it is. Favreau and his writers (apparently two separate teams – Mark Fergus & Hawk Ostby who co-wrote Children of Men and Arthur Marcum & Matthew Hollaway) get the right balance between the story, humor, action, effects and charm. Also, the fact that Iron Man is more a hero with super equipment than super powers makes him more identifiable. Some predictability does creep in but you hardly care when it is so much fun. Favreau finds the right tone to appeal to audiences looking for blockbuster entertainment as well as those looking for more sensible fun. There isn’t a dull moment in this one and though the movie doesn’t have a ton of action you don’t miss it.

And Robert Downey Jr makes you wonder why most superhero movies don’t have an actor of his calibre and at least half his charm. After all they need to be super. Once you see Robert Downey Jr in this role, you can’t imagine anyone else in it. He just hits the correct notes with everything. Gwyneth Paltrow is also a delight in her role as Miss Potts, Stark’s secretary. Both these actors get some superb lines, especially in their scenes together and their banter is great to watch. Jeff Bridges (The Big Lebowski) and his bald pate suit the role of Obadiah Stane well. Terrence Howard plays a supporting role in preparation for a future as War Machine (and the post-credits sequence hints at the Avengers too).

In the past superhero films have lacked in certain aspects of their appeal for various audiences. Some were too dark for a few folks (Batman Begins), the pacing seemed slow in some (Superman Returns), some just didn’t have enough appeal for those who have grown out of their teens (The Fantastic Four) and some superheroes even cried (Spiderman 3). But this film overcomes such shortcomings to cater to almost everyone with the right blend of the major elements required for an entertaining motion picture. It is exciting and well-paced. It has a lot of humor and some really cool effects (especially those used in depicting Tony’s lab and the design process). There is just enough action and a touch of romance too. With a well-constructed screenplay, a capable helmer behind the screen and talented performers in front of it, this motion picture manages to keep the audiences glued to their seats.

I hadn’t hoped I would enjoy this film even half as much as I did. So, my recommendation is simple. Go and watch it. Soon!

P.S. The sequel comes out Summer 2010.