‘Game Over’ Movie Review: A jaw-dropping and heart-stopping thriller

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The horrors that you get to experience in Game Over are on a whole new high. Such an arresting act by Taapsee Pannu!

Swapna (an immensely powerful performance from Taapsee Pannu for the protagonist) is sharing her experience of fear and breathlessness, that she had inside a dark room, to a Doctor. While she does so, the camera steadily, slowly and quietly enters the room moving from right to left. In another scene, on the outside, Kalamma (Vinodhini Vaidyanathan), Swapna’s caretaker, can be seen from the window grills to be hanging the clothes out to dry. The camera, which is inside the room, leisurely moves towards the window producing an eerie feeling out of normal activity. And, in another instance, a close shot captures the lighting of a thick candle. Then there’s a slow-motion sequence in black-and-white where Swapna looks jovial while getting inked. During this, there’s a close shot of ink being dropped in a glass of water that gets slowly spread around and mixed up. Sometimes, inside a dimly-lit room, the camera cautiously moves towards a door creating a strange feeling. You also listen to the creak of a swing chair, as the camera ploddingly goes towards it, outside the house.

A. Vasanth’s cinematography is the very first thing that stands out as the film gives you glimpses of different elements of the story. Perhaps this is not anywhere close to the brilliant camera work of Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma. But it is definitely among the greatest works in Indian cinema. It just presented Director Ashwin Saravanan’s Game Over in a different light altogether. Of course, Ashwin’s vision is a big factor too. It’s not just the stupendous camera work that excites you but also how important these detailed shots turn out to be as the movie progresses.

The core of the narrative in Game Over is about incidents of some unknown men taking videos of women while torturing them, beheading them and then burning their headless body. One of those women in the film, who ends up being the target of these men, is Swapna. The film does not dwell too much on this character’s life. We take a gander at her past life where she is seen to have been kept in captivity inside a dark room and being tortured. This agonising incident is etched in her memory so much so that she finds herself in a state of terrible uneasiness when she encounters darkness inside a room. The tattoo, that she has on one of her forearms, resembling a video game controller, as she is a game freak, turn out to be a memorial tattoo that contains the ashes of a dead woman. Towards the intermission, the film can make you feel a bit of restlessness as Swapna’s fear of dark room and being a victim of torture (that never gets elaborated but only shown briefly) may seem repetitive and dragged a little. Even the tattoo is used as something that can add sentimental value to the film (The dead woman’s mother comes to see Swapna and have a feel of the memorial tattoo as it contains ashes of her daughter but it doesn’t move you because the focus was never really on building the story of this dead woman character).

Ashwin decides to finish off the first half of the movie with a message on the screen that says, “Game On”. Well, it literally means ‘What if life is a game’ (You will understand why when you see it). It’s the post-interval part that keeps you on the edge of the seat with your eyes popping out and mouth wide open in fearfulness. Every detailed camera shot that you saw in the first half will start finding meaning in the second half. There’s a headless body sitting in the swing chair. The head cut off from the body is thrown at the window. Swapna’s fear of darkness comes to the fore and this time with even more intensity. Men, all covered up in a black outfit, carrying daggers, don’t just sit on the couch and give a villainous look but also slit the throat instantly. The thick candle shown earlier comes into play as well as it, along with a flammable oil, is used for setting fire on one of these men and burn them.

The amazing music by Ron Ethan Yohann gives a boost to thrilling sequences in the film. The film is, one might say, India’s answer to Jordon Peele’s Get Out. The horrors that you get to experience in Game Over is on a whole new high, just like Get Out, but it also comes at a price. Like Get Out, amidst the shockers and thrillers, you may feel some of the elements not fully developed and left half-baked. But you won’t be thinking about all that after such an arresting act by Taapsee Pannu and heart-stopping experience that you get while watching this film.

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‘NGK’ Movie Review: An unnatural and mind-numbing film

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Source: Sony Music South | Youtube

A guy says in a different context in NGK that something weird is happening and that they have not given any information so far. Well, weirdly enough, the movie stayed true to this dialogue.

There’s a greenish background and Nandha Gopala Kumaran aka Kumaran (played by Suriya) keeps staring at the camera, placed very close to his face, with a blank expression. This brief scene comes twice in NGK (Once at the beginning and secondly soon after the intermission). There’s a high possibility that, while tolerating this stodgy film, you may be able to correlate with these brief instances. You will be ending up watching the entire movie with the same blank countenance and can think of the dark surroundings of your cinema hall same as that greenish background.

Only the premise passed the test of patience as Kumaran, drenched in rain, climbs up the pipes and enters the house in a bid to surprise his wife Geetha (Sai Pallavi), talks to his mother about how working in a corporate company is stressful and unhealthy, and gloriously describes the peaceful life of being a farmer and doing organic farming. Soon after this interesting premise, Director Selvaraghavan offers a feast of mind-numbing sequences in NGK (It was shocking to witness such a film from the director of brilliant films like Mayakkam Enna).

Kumaran, who is a social activist, gets threatened for doing good deeds. He is advised by an old guy to get into actual politics as it would give him the power and authority that he needs to do good to people. And so he does. He joins a political party, starts from cleaning the toilet and eventually becomes the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. Well, this does ring a bell if you are apprised of Tamil Nadu politics and will remind you of known persons from the political circle. And there are more references like this. It didn’t seem to mean anything other than just a stupid trial of being relevant with the real-world politics.

The movie feels unnatural in all its essence. The actors seem to be expressing exorbitantly. (The sheer annoyance that Sai Pallavi as the wife of Kumaran creates is too much to endure). Rakul Preet Singh, who plays the Vanathi character, doesn’t seem relevant (But hey! She gets to shake a leg with Suriya in an unnecessarily included song). There are forced inclusions of fight sequences involving Kumaran (Probably an attempt to give you a feeling of an adrenaline rush). Even Kumaran, who sort of turns psychotic in the latter half, looks irksome.

I am not sure what the movie really tried to say in all its oddities. As a matter of fact, it caused such restlessness that I didn’t bother knowing what this movie was all about and somehow managed to sit through the whole movie. One thing that really stood out was the amazing background score from Yuvan Shankar Raja. Otherwise, there is a dialogue in the film that fitted well with the kind of experience it offers and the ultimate thought it leaves you with. A guy says in a different context in NGK that something weird is happening and that they have not given any information so far. Well, weirdly enough, the movie stayed true to this dialogue.

‘Bharat’ Movie Review: A film that tries too hard but fails to ignite any emotion

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Either the film tries too hard in some cases to move you or shows nothing at all in other cases hoping that little exposure is enough to bring out emotions in us.

Directed by Ali Abbas Zafar, Bharat (Salman Khan) is the name of the main character and the movie itself. As the movie begins, we see Bharat in grey hair and grey beard. This is the year 2010. He is almost 70-year-old. His voice can be heard in the background saying that we, as an audience, must be thinking that the story of this old guy would be uninteresting. But he assures that what we are about to witness is the story of his “rangeen zindagi” (colourful life). It was great to hear that sort of assurance but I didn’t allow myself to set high hopes solely on the basis of this.

Bharat is based on a South Korean film Ode to my father. I haven’t seen this South Korean film. So, there’s no room for any kind of comparison between the two movies. The story of Bharat takes us back to the year 1947 when the imminent partition of India and Pakistan was on the cards. Bharat is a young kid and is living in Lahore (Pakistan). To escape the indiscriminate killings on the basis of one’s religion, Bharat’s father (played by Jackie Shroff) takes his family to join the throng of people boarding the train to leave for India. Amidst the crowd, Bharat’s father and one of his sisters fail to board the train. Bharat and his family start living in one of their relative’s home in Delhi (India) and look after their provision store. So, this store becomes dear to Bharat. From thereon, the film shows what Bharat does to look after his family, his constant remembrances of his father and his sister who left behind, the efforts taken to reunite with them and how he tries to keep the provision store from being taken down by the potential builders who are keen on bringing a shopping mall instead.

The film tries to score on nationalistic sentiments. A kid says that even though he is a Muslim, he migrated from Pakistan to India as he considers India as his home nation. Someone greets “As-Salaam-Alaikum” and gets “Ram Ram” in return (to show the secularism and unity in India). In one scene, Bharat randomly starts singing National Anthem of India and the whole audience inside the theatre naturally stood up as a mark of respect followed by the chants of ‘“Bharat Mata Ki Jai’” (Long Live Mother India!). In fact, Bharat character is shown as the embodiment of people of India.

Vilayati, which means foreigner, is the name of a character who is also a close friend of Bharat. Vilayati is Muslim. (Is that a deliberate attempt to show the current environment in India where Muslims are seen as foreigners by a number of Indians and are sometimes even threatened to go back to Pakistan?). This Vilayati character is funnier at his best. He plays the iconic snake game on his mobile phone with a constant murmuring of “khaja.. khaja” (eat! eat!). He is jokingly said to be and shown as a lookalike of Nehru. After a futile attempt of lifting a heavy bag, he throws his hands up and acts as if finally having lifted it when, in reality, Bharat is the one holding it. As a matter of fact, the hilarity produced by this Vilayati character was a lot better than the annoying and forced comedy of Pirates-of-Somalia-dancing-to-the-tunes-of-Bollywood scene.

Radha (Disha Patani) is irrelevant in the film (Except that she is a part of ‘Slow Motion’ track, composed by Vishal-Shekhar, which is one of the decent songs in this film). She is glamorous and shown to have some sort of bonding with Bharat. But it is so transient and never registers well. So, as Bharat moves on with his life and parts ways with Radha, it does not make you root for them to be together. Kumud (Katrina Kaif) is in a live-in relationship with Bharat and that too with the approval of Bharat’s mother. Katrina Kaif’s bad acting, failure to render comic lines, and romantic relationship with Bharat that never blossomed further aggravated the scenes involving her.

There’s even an advertisement for a television channel and done as if it is part of the story. Anyway, this becomes even more irksome when a prolonged phase of the reunion of Indians and Pakistanis is shown. It gets so tiring and trite as this phase never ignites the emotion inside you. This ultimately leads to the inevitable reunion of Bharat and his lost sister.

As is customary, Salman flaunts his well-built body as he pulls a number of injured men using a trolley. It doesn’t even matter whether this Bharat character is 70 years old or not as he fights with such power and strength against a number of men trying to assault him while riding their motorbikes.

You do understand Bharat’s sentiment of not parting ways with the provision store but the emphasis put on it is so less that you never really feel Bharat’s emotions. Also, the banal portrayal of the family reunion, which is too long, doesn’t help it either. Either the film tries too hard in some cases to move you or shows nothing at all in other cases hoping that little exposure is enough to bring out emotions in us. Unlike Bharat’s promise that he makes early on, the film turns out to be colourless and wearisome.

‘John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum’ Movie Review: A fantastic action film that exhibits a sheer mastery over death

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Revel in the gruesomeness, strength, guts, and the sheer mastery over death that the film exhibits. Keanu Reeves is a master at work.

Inside a public library, at the beginning of the movie, John Wick (played exceedingly well by an intense and fierce Keanu Reeves, maybe even more than what he displayed in the first two chapters) is looking for a book in a shelf. He finds the one he was looking for and opens it. There is a photograph of his wife, some coins and a Jesus Christ cross locket inside this hardback book. He takes an emotional look at the photo and keeps it back at the same place. You can’t have an extended period of silence and calmness in a John Wick film series. So, a guy attacks John. The same book comes handy for John to kill that guy as it makes for an eye-popping fight sequence. But John can’t rely on things like a book to get the better of all those who are looking to attack him. He, in a scene, rightfully says that he needs “guns… lots of guns”. And he does use an awful lot of them in addition to daggers in this film. He, of course, shows some acrobatic fighting style as well.

Director Chad Stahelski’s John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is much better than Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 for obvious reasons. There is no antagonist character he is after. He is fighting goons all alone with some help that he gets from a few people. The First Chapter had a weak villain in Viggo (Michael Nyqvist). I watched the First Chapter again and I was largely unimpressed by this character as it hardly had any impact. The Second Chapter had a promising start to the villain character as Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) sets John’s house on fire but this too faded away eventually. On the contrary, there is no dedicated antagonist character involved in Chapter 3 and no unnecessary and uninteresting hero-villain duel. There are men and women sent out with the task of killing John Wick. We get to see what John does best – “Hunt”.

We know what John Wick is capable of. We have already seen him inserting a pencil inside a man’s ear in the Second Chapter. So, seeing him using a book in this film to kill a guy was not surprising. He, also, just doesn’t shoot someone with his gun. He keeps his gun close to the attacker’s head and shoots him multiple times that sort of leads to ‘head explosion’. In fact, such scenes occur so much so that I, for a moment, forgot the persons getting killed are ‘humans’ as I loved the way John Wick goes about doing everything.

The First and Second Chapters of this film series established a unique style for itself. We get a fantastic bird’s eye view of skyscrapers and roads below at night time. The character of John Wick is registered in our minds as being someone with an immense amount of “audacity”. He is also said to be “a man of focus, commitment and sheer will”. As a matter of fact, there is always a style quotient about him. He drives a stylish-looking Ford Mustang car. A room full of cash in church gets engulfed in flames behind him as he walks casually. In Chapter 3, the style and the brutality get combined and multiplied.

While the First Chapter had a story, a grudge and a motive behind all the killings, the Second Chapter seemed to be ‘story-deficient’. What worked in both films were the action sequences involving John Wick. Therefore, Director Chad Stahelski strikes the right chord in the Third Chapter by infusing plenty of truculent action sequences. It’s difficult to know which one’s real and which one’s done through VFX as you get so absorbed by amazingly filmed scenes. A special mention must be given to three particular realistic sequences involving – the room full of daggers, the motorcycle chase, and the fight against the assassin, Zero (Mark Dacascos). The fun element associated with the fight against Zero and his men is something to watch out for.

Marcus (Willem Dafoe) shoots from a distance to save John Wick in the First Chapter (An interesting plot twist that surprised many of us). There is Winston (Ian McShane), in Chapter 3, who pulls the trigger of his gun to leave us in shock. Sofia (Halle Berry) and her two ferocious dogs, fighting alongside John Wick, is a mind-boggling addition. Even Charon (Lance Reddick), who keeps a serious expression and gives an intelligent perception about him in his brief appearances, comes in support of John Wick and shoots down foes.

As it all started with the killing of his dog, which gave him a “semblance of hope” and was not just a puppy to him, John Wick’s affection towards dogs kept on going in the Second Chapter as he adopted another very obedient dog that also features in this film.

The film has ended on the promise of yet another outing. Until then, it’s time to revel in the gruesomeness, strength, guts, and the sheer mastery over death that the film exhibits. Keanu Reeves is a master at work.

Burning Movie Review: A mysterious triangle

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Even though you sense a brilliance as the film ends, you can’t help but feel the weariness

The title of the Korean-language film, Burning (Beoning), has a significance that you only realise when the film warrants you to. Before the real meaning of ‘burning’ comes out, you get to envisage fire as it is perhaps the first thing that would come to your mind when you think of ‘burning’. Director Lee Chang-dong sets two different contexts. Lee Jong-su (Yoo Ah-in), in one of the scenes, reminisces about an agonising incident from his childhood where his father coerced him into burning down the clothes of his mother. In another lengthy sequence, Ben (Steven Yeun wears a smile throughout for this character to suggest a strange, evil person inside him that works so well) reveals his plan of setting fire to one of the greenhouses near Lee Jong-su’s home. This makes Lee Jong-su search for all the greenhouses he could find near his home before hearing a mysterious revelation from Ben that he already torched one thereby leaving Lee Jong-su perplexed. Finally, treading this slow-paced mystery, you reach a point when Lee Jong-su, whose girlfriend, Hae-mi (immersive performance lent by Jeon Jong-seo), has gone missing, is burning with anger and ends up killing the suspect and setting the car on fire with the dead suspect lying inside it.

Burning, based on a short story by Haruki Murakami, is thought-provoking and mysterious. Hae-mi’s character is closed-book. Her act of pantomime while having dinner with Lee Jong-su is enigmatic. When Lee Jong-su visits her home, she calls her cat but there is no cat to be seen which leaves him thinking that she is calling an imaginary cat. There are moments when she is emphasising upon the search for the meaning of life. There is ambiguity about Ben too as to what his relationship with Hae-mi is all about. Lee Jong-su keeps receiving a phone call but the person on the other end keeps mum. A sort of mystification always surrounds the lead characters of the film. But the film feels humdrum at different stages. The snail-paced storytelling doesn’t help either. Even though you sense a brilliance as the film ends, you can’t help but feel the weariness.

Someone Great Movie Review: A dull take on love, relationship and break-ups

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The film tries to be too cool with everything that it is doing. But the more it does so, the more irksome it gets.

Jenny (Gina Rodriguez) is sitting alongside a stranger and is emotionally revealing to her that her 9-year-long love relationship with Nate (LaKeith Stanfield) just ended. The stranger, though listens to all of that, abruptly stands up and walks away leaving Jenny clueless. She reaches out to her best friends Blair (Brittany Snow) and Erin (DeWanda Wise). She is moving to a different city and wants to have a blast with her friends for one last time before they all move on with their lives. Netflix’s Someone Great has a clichéd story that even 90 minutes of run-time makes you feel like it is too long. It is so annoying that all you would be thinking is – “Come on, get it over with!”.

It sort of gives you an opportunity to take a peek into the lives of Jenny and Nate. You get to see how the bond between them grew stronger and eventually how the fallout happened. But these scenes are so short-lived that you hardly get attached to these characters and never actually get to feel Jenny’s affliction. But this is the only character whose life is shown a lot more than that of Blair and Erin. And Gina Rodriguez has acted tremendously well. So, after a prolonged depiction of her dejectedness of having broken up with her long-time boyfriend in combination with Gina’s great performance, you do understand her feelings of wanting to reunite with her boyfriend.

Then, there’s Erin neglecting her girlfriend before finally saying, “I love…” and her girlfriend responding back in an instant saying, “I love you too”. This is designed to be a touching scene. But, Erin’s love-life hasn’t been given any emphasis. So, you can’t expect anyone to be moved by this. Blair’s relationship with her boyfriend is full of pretence. Therefore, you would have already figured out that this would end too. And so it does! Moreover, Blair’s relationship with her boyfriend hasn’t been given any significance. You don’t really care whether they get along well or not. Brittany Snow’s weak performance doesn’t help either.

The jollier times that these girls enjoy together is perhaps the only phase which I felt was nice (Watch out for the singing and dancing that these girls do together). ‘Latina’ written on Jenny’s shirt or the ‘Feminist’ written on sofa cushion do their bit of magic as well.

The film tries to be too cool with everything that it is doing. But the more it does so, the more irksome it gets. Written and directed by Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, Someone Great is a rom-com that is a commonplace.

Made In Heaven Web Series Review: A moralising tale that remains a jejune watch

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The didactic narrative is something that prevailed throughout this series.

The series has a superb premise. Two different wedding planners are presenting their ideas of organising the wedding to a rich, affluent family to try and please them with their creativity and sign the deal. While one of them tries to woo the family with taglines like “new age royalty”, the other company called ‘Made In Heaven’ uses love and relationship as part of their efforts to bag the deal. Tara (Sobhita Dhulipala) and Karan (Arjun Mathur), representing Made In Heaven, say that the wedding is a “once in a lifetime event”. They, further, add that wedding ceremony “should celebrate the couple” and “the theme should tell their story”. Tara and Karan do go on to impress the family and end up signing the contract. Amazon Prime Video’s Made in Heaven, a web series comprising 9 episodes, is about how Tara and Karan confront complicated situations while organising wedding ceremonies and at the same time how they deal with the problems in their own life.

It is great to see different sorts of weddings being planned and I liked how a progressive and regressive mindset was being highlighted. But the depiction of challenges associated with the weddings was stretched to an extent that they seemed preachy. For instance, there’s a guy who has no problem knowing that his fiancée is not a virgin. But the complication that arises due to his parents’ disapproval takes too long to establish a conclusion. A guilty conscience starts hurting a girl, in another instance, who has slept with another man when she is already about to get married. This, again, I felt, was protracted to a point that it seemed draggy.

It resorts to teaching us some of the important issues instead of making us realise them ourselves. Karan, who is a gay, emotionally declares that “this is who I am”. We, further, get to hear dialogues like “there’s nothing wrong with being gay” and “it’s natural”. (An aged man confesses his attraction towards men when he says that he has lived his whole life in pretence. This was much more impactful where you really feel bad for that guy without having to hear in-your-face dialogues). In another scene, a group of male workers initially turn down the order given by a woman. Here, the reaction of those workers itself was enough to understand why they didn’t obey her order. But, later, these workers explain that they are not going to take orders from a ‘woman’. This did serve the purpose of depicting the ugly mentality of those male chauvinist guys but when it resorted to explanation, thinking that it might go unnoticed, it took the sheen away. Take Netflix’s Soni, for example, which subtly exhibited the sufferings of women in a male-dominated society. Even Pariyerum Perumal, one of the greatest Tamil films ever made, portrayed the divide in the society in the name of caste but never really tried to educate us through moralising dialogues and the protagonist’s anguish and agony were enough to make us feel the sufferings.

Although the didactic narrative is something that prevailed throughout this series, the performances of all the cast members were terrific. Even a cameo by Vijay Raaz was powerful.

There were little things that were non-didactic and yet were represented brilliantly. I wished the series remained so in the entirety. A father defends his son being gay in front of a throng of media persons. A mother’s disappointment is clearly visible when she excitedly asks “how’s food?” and all she gets in return is “just as it always is”. A girl looks at a syringe on the floor and slips it under the bed and the camera turns right to show her brother sleeping in his bed depicting that he is a drug addict.

Scenes involving sex were both lusty and realistic. Some of them even showed the ‘other’ side of the picture which is not usually represented in Indian movies and series (A man, while kissing Karan, asks him if he wants to marry him). And some even brought out the harsh realities (A minor girl gets raped by a rich, older man but she accepts the money from him to stay silent about it).

Tara’s character brings out the poignant feeling but her strained relationship with her husband (Jim Sarbh) has been stretched for far too long.

Nevertheless, Made in Heaven remained a wearying watch.