A Star Is Born Movie Review: One’s glory, another’s fall

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A combination of terrific performances from Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga and a mixture of enchanting romance, the growth of a star (and the fall of a star), and the eventual tragic end makes A star is born a beautiful and inspiring film that shows both the highs and the lows when one attains stardom.

The film opens with a rock concert. Jack (Bradley Cooper) sings “And I’m all alone by the wayside” in front of a cheering crowd. We, then, see Ally (Lady Gaga) walking down the street singing “When all the world is a hopeless jumble and the raindrops tumble all around, heaven opens a magic lane”. The lonely Jack sees a hopeful Ally in a nightclub singing a French song. Jack wears a smile that shows his instant admiration for a captivating voice of Ally. He goes backstage and asks her out (Loved how Ally feels shy as he looks at her romantically). There begins the rise of a star with the help of an established artist. A star is born, Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut, illuminates not just the ascension of a singer but the fall of a star as well.

There is no freshness in the plot as, of course, the movie marks the third remake of William A. Wellman’s film (same title) that released in 1937. It can be divided into two parts: The first one is where Ally’s talent gets recognised by Jack, the charming romance between them grows, and Ally gets to sing on a big stage before eventually signing her own album with a record company. And the second one is where the relationship between them is falling apart, Ally’s singing career has touched sky-high and Jack ends up in a drug rehabilitation program. While the former depicts the glory, fame and love, the latter represents the grief and dilemma.

The love angle between Jack and Ally is the standout feature of this film. It’s going to be talked about for years to come. Jack is truly enamoured of her. He looks at her as if she is the most precious person he has ever met in his life. He drops her off at home and while she gets down from the car and heads towards the door, he calls her and says that he wanted to take another look at her. He is sitting beside her bed while she is enjoying her pleasing slumber and he just can’t take his eyes off of her.

In a known plot, as this film has, it is important not to stretch too much when it comes to delineating the process of becoming a star. So, amidst the romance, her stardom kicks off as well. In one scene, Jack emphasises the significance of “talent” over “looks” and, in another scene, she presents a song to him which she wrote herself but is not confident enough if that is good enough to show to the world. Impressed to a great extent and charmed by her beauty, he asks her to join him on stage and that is it. As Ally hoped, heaven has really opened a magic lane for her. It was so beautiful to see them singing “Shallow” together.

Probably I was mesmerised by this relationship so much so that I felt the film got draggy and jading once the problems in their life kick in. But I liked how the film exhibited the harsh realities in the life of a star. When Ally is giving her speech on stage after winning the Grammy Award, she is joined by a drunk and unstable Jack who pees in his pants. It is disheartening to see the embarrassment on Ally’s face. Bobby (Sam Elliott), Jack’s half brother, says, in another scene, that people are still listening to Jack’s songs while Jack has succumbed to drug and alcohol addiction. Nevertheless, a combination of terrific performances from Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga and a mixture of enchanting romance, the growth of a star (and the fall of a star), and the eventual tragic end makes A star is born a beautiful and inspiring film that shows both the highs and the lows when one attains stardom.

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The Favourite Movie Review: Side-splitting and insightful

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Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite is a delightful black comedy movie that attains a semblance of normalcy towards the end that is both insightful and thought-provoking.

If Anne (Olivia Colman), the queen, gets what she wants (sex), she would, in return, offer the luxury. Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz) and Abigail Masham (Emma Stone) know this characteristic nature of Anne and bestow this with utmost profuseness. Sarah and Abigail take turns to woo Anne and try to become the ‘favourite’ of the queen (hence, the title).  In all its weirdness and the hilarity that it, thus, produces, Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite is a delightful black comedy movie that attains a semblance of normalcy towards the end that is both insightful and thought-provoking.

The Favourite is one of the finest examples of how black comedy films should be written. There is every bit of seriousness in it and yet we find it strange and extremely funny. In one of the early scenes, Anne joyously tells Sarah that the war against France is over. Sarah, in response, tells with condescension that the war is not over and it must continue as Anne replies, “oh!”. This was the first strange and hilarious instance when I laughed out loud. Abigail, in a scene, explains that, while she was travelling in a carriage, a “man was pulling his (penis)” and the actual image flashes in her eyes as we burst into laughter. As she gets down from the carriage, unable to resist, that man grabs her butt and she falls in the mud (If I had seen a complete stranger behaving in such indecent manner, I would have felt an immense amount of indignation growing inside me). Then, in response to Abigail’s request for a job, Sarah rudely replies that she can be a “monster for the children to play with” and Abigail excitedly roars mimicking a lion. In another humorous instance, Abigail, while working as a maid, is asked by an inimical lady to “scrub the floor until Mrs. Meg (Jennifer White) can see her toothless, fat face in it”. Abigail narrates a sad turn of events to Sarah but explains in a way that throws us into uproarious laughter (Abigail says that when she was 15, her father lost her in a card game to which Sarah replies, “you are not serious”. Abigail continues saying that “the debt was to a balloon-shaped German man with a thin cock”). Sarah, in a scene, teaches how to shoot the birds to Abigail. And when Abigail misses her aim, Sarah mocks her by saying that she is really doing damage to the sky. When Samuel Masham (Joe Alwyn) enters the room of Abigail, she casually asks him if he has come to seduce her or rape her. It was both droll and whimsical when Harley (Nicholas Hoult), sitting on a sofa, is annoyed by the presence of duck beside him as he asks, “Must the duck be here?”.

I was impressed by the performances of Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone in particular as they portrayed the characters of Sarah and Abigail with such perfection. Written by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara, the narrative lets go of strangeness and humour towards the end and shifts the focus towards who-becomes-the-favourite-of-queen. Abigail, with all her prudence, manages to give a fierce competition which causes consternation to Sarah. Anne, even, denudes Sarah of her privileges. The moment of realisation strikes when Abigail, who thinks to have succeeded Sarah as the favourite, has to kneel down and rub the legs of Anne. In spite of it being a historical period drama, the movie seems so relevant in the present world where the greed for ‘more’ has always resulted in a disastrous way as we fail to realise that ‘less is more’.

Alita: Battle Angel Movie Review: An unsatisfying but enjoyable film stuffed with surprises

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Alita: Battle Angel remains a film that promises for a delightful affair but falls short as it is in no way substantial enough to make us crave for a sequel

I’m with her”, says Hugo (Keean Johnson). He wears a stunned look on his face as his girlfriend Alita (Rosa Salazar) has single-handedly and marvellously challenged and fought a group of hunter-warriors. This is not the only instance when Alita’s strength and agility have been depicted. There is a gradual progression, you can say, of depiction involving Alita’s skills, her past (where she is seen indulged in a battle) and the regaining of her lost glory (Well, almost!). Directed by Robert Rodriguez, Alita: Battle Angel, for most parts, remains enjoyable but in a deliberate effort to make a sequel, the movie seems to have held back far too many interesting portions of the story.

Based on Gunnm, a manga series by Yukito Kishiro, the film is set in the 25th century (20th Century Fox graciously presented itself as 25th Century Fox in the beginning). The premise is not too exciting and gives a been-there-seen-that feel. Dr. Ido (Christoph Waltz) finds the remnant of an old cyborg in a scrap yard and rekindles the life in it by giving it a new body. The storytelling, then, moves on to delineate how this cyborg, Alita, slowly remembers what she used to be 300 years ago.

Backed by the screenplay rendered by James Cameron and Laeta Kalogridis, there is a conscientious effort of creating a nexus. Alita recalls being involved in a battle where suddenly a giant ring, encircling an enormous pipe, comes crashing down to take down a lot of those fighting over that pipe. We recall this scene when Hugo is climbing up this huge pipe with Alita following him trying to persuade him to come down and all of a sudden that giant ring comes crashing down. Hugo talks about a rugby-like sport called Motorball, in another scene, and says that “champion” gets to visit the sky city Zalem which is apparently controlling the city on the ground. We hark back to this when Alita suggests to Hugo that she will take part in the Motorball competition for him to be able to get to Zalem.

The movie is filled with style quotient. Hugo’s motorbike with a single wheel has a modish appeal to it. In another scene, Dr. Ido’s ex-wife Chiren (Jennifer Connelly) gets inside a car and as the car door opens, we see Vector (Mahershala Ali) sitting inside it. He turns towards the camera and the car door gets closed (It was depicted in such stylish manner). In another instance, Hugo takes Alita to a Motorball game in a stadium and she gets excited and thrilled by the super cool sport.

There is a sudden expression of mingled affability on Alita’s part when she first meets Hugo. But it does not blossom into an interesting or rather, I should say, satisfying romantic relationship as we do not yearn for them to be together. I hate to do a comparison but this triggered a reminiscence. I recalled the iconic romance between WALL-E and EVE from one of the greatest animated films of all time – WALL-E. I can’t remember a better courting scene between robots than this. Alita: Battle Angel does not involve robots per se. But the relationship between Alita as Cyborg and Hugo as a human just did not work out and it hardly moves us when Hugo dies after being attacked by a hunter-warrior. As a matter of fact, it is painful to see a dog getting killed when it comes in defence of Alita and starts barking at a hunter-warrior. Seeing a living being getting hurt or having a romantic relationship is relatable and does invoke feelings inside us. But, WALL-E is a classic example of a human-less yet emotional film. Alita: Battle Angel fails on this aspect.

Nova (Edward Norton), who is controlling the Zalem, can speak through Vector or a hunter-warrior by getting the access of their mind instantly. It seems interesting at first. In fact, he is the most important antagonist. But, all we get to see is his glimpses. A stolid-looking Nova is shown towards the end as he looks down upon the city on the ground from sky city Zalem. Also, as Alita gradually recalls her past, it gives us the chills momentarily. With the movie coming to a close, an unsatisfactory feeling sets in. More than a film, it seems like the first episode of a TV series. Even though the film’s writing has excelled in presenting a narrative with nicely crafted surprises, Alita: Battle Angel remains a film that promises for a delightful affair but falls short as it is in no way substantial enough to make us crave for a sequel.

Glass Movie Review: Extraordinarily dull

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Save for spectacular performances by James McAvoy, Samuel L. Jackson, and Bruce Willis, Glass remains a banal and wearying film.

In an attempt to present a different brand of superhero-based film, Director M. Night Shyamalan has wound up creating a humdrum of a film. Glass, which is the title of the film and the name of one of the lead characters reprised by Samuel L. Jackson, builds on the foundation set by Unbreakable and Split. As a matter of fact, this movie does not even need a prerequisite of having watched both films. It ends up recounting almost all the events of both the previous films and takes an awful amount of time to reach the final “showdown”.

There is a riveting start to this film as we instantly see the merger of Split and Unbreakable happening. Kevin (James McAvoy) has kidnapped girls (which reminds us of the opening scene in Split) but this time we see David (Bruce Willis) rescuing the girls. This sets off a fight between The Beast, most dangerous personality among Kevin’s multiple personalities, and The Overseer, David’s secretive role of finding and punishing the bad people which he discovered towards the end of Unbreakable. Like every superhero film, The Beast and The Overseer does have a weakness for bright lights and water respectively which is used by policemen to capture them and take them to the mental institution where Elijah or the Glass (Samuel L. Jackson) is being treated. From here on, as Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson is fantastic in this role) proceeds her work of “taking care of individuals who think they are superheroes”, the films turns absolutely trite. A hackneyed phase of references to Split and Unbreakable ensues as we hanker for something new to happen.

The film did have appreciable things that made up for underwhelming storytelling. The brilliant camera work, that is synonymous with Shyamalan’s films, enhanced the power of some of the scenes on the screen. When an attendee is inside Kevin’s room and is frightened by Kevin changing his personality every few seconds, the camera swings almost at a 180-degree angle to show the terrified face of attendee on the left and the changing personalities of Kevin on the right. Also, when Kevin, David and Elijah are sitting on a chair in a big hall and are being “dissected” by Dr. Ellie, the close-up shot of camera focussing on their faces shows the expression on their face magnificently. Sometimes, a tense environment is created where we get a feeling that something terrifying might happen (Elijah is sitting in his wheelchair outside his room and the attendees have no idea how the door was opened. Or, the scene where Dr. Ellie has come to visit Kevin in his room and different personalities of Kevin comes out randomly. It looks serious as if something dangerous might happen but Dr. Ellie just smiles as there are ‘hypnosis lights’ in the room to keep him under control). West Dylan Thordson’s background score perfectly aligned with the film’s tense mood. The best of all is the surprise element that Shyamalan brings out through Elijah but that could not save the uninteresting final “showdown”. Save for spectacular performances by James McAvoy, Samuel L. Jackson, and Bruce Willis, Glass remains a banal and wearying film.

Split Movie Review: Intriguing plot turns dull

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Split remains a jading watch in spite of being immersing momentarily.

M. Night Shyamalan’s Split starts off rivetingly. The forlorn state of Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy) is illuminated as we see her in the midst of girls celebrating in a party. Two of her classmates and their father offer a ride in their car. When the girls are sitting inside the car, a loud thud can be heard behind their car and, in the next moment, Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy) gets inside the car and occupies the driver’s seat (Kevin has knocked the Casey’s classmates’ father down). Kevin kidnaps the three girls and shuts them inside a room. Shyamalan’s brilliance lies in making us think of all sorts of possibilities in regards to the intention behind the kidnapping and the consequence. So, the movie has a gripping premise but as it slowly starts uncloaking the mystery, the dullness creeps in.

Kevin is reeling under a mental disorder called dissociative identity disorder that has created multiple personalities inside him (Hence, the title Split). The film puts the focus on the most dangerous and mysterious personality inside Kevin – The Beast – and how this potent personality winds up taking the “light” (taking control of Kevin).

Whether as a dominant personality (Dennis), or as a small kid (Hedwig), or even as a feminine character (Patricia), James McAvoy has pulled off a stunning display of performance to depict all those different personalities in a distinct way as possible. The drudgery sets in when the split personality of Kevin has been revealed and the focus shifts to The Beast. In the process of creating a terrifying image of The Beast, a monotony is felt (For instance, Kevin’s conversations with Dr. Karen Fletcher (Betty Buckley), a psychologist, about his condition and the presence of this so-called threatening personality; or Hedwig’s description of this lordly personality to Casey). It, at times, feels intriguing (like, for instance, when Casey’s classmate tries to run away through an opening on the ceiling of the room and Kevin ends up catching her) but the repetitiveness and the surfeit of instances that intends to build a menacing picture of The Beast makes up for a banal output.

Casey’s agonising past, where she was sexually abused by her uncle, is nicely depicted and it does make you angry seeing her uncle luring a young and innocent Casey to come to him from behind the shrubs.

You are left with mixed feelings when The Beast finally takes the “light” towards the end. It does look formidable and fearsome. But as you have sat through a stodgy narrative and are yearning for its speedy finish, it is not exactly astonishing to witness this ultimate personality. Split remains a jading watch in spite of being immersing momentarily.

Unbreakable Movie Review: An alternative to superhero subject that works to an extent

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Unbreakable exhibits intriguing storytelling of humans with unique abilities that turn repetitious along the way.

Unbreakable is a whiff of fresh air. Director M. Night Shyamalan has created an incredible story involving humans-with-superpowers that offers an alternative to the likes of Marvel or DC. As a matter of fact, there are not even those top-notch VFX shots that are usually associated with superhero-based films.

It takes an ample amount of time to build the story. There is no rush whatsoever throughout. This motion picture involves David (Bruce Willis) who confronts strange qualities in him without ever taking a serious effort to explore them further and is finally able to realise his uniqueness after consistent persuasion of Elijah (Samuel L. Jackson).

The brilliant camera work of the film was noticeable. Simple interaction between David and a co-passenger in train arrests you. David is sitting near the window and the co-passenger next to him. The camera is placed at the seats that are in front of them and moves from the left seat to the right one to show their faces. A glum-looking Young Elijah, who is born with a medical condition where his bones are prone to fracture, is sitting in front of the television with a plaster cast in one hand and his mother speaks to him encouraging him to go out. The camera does the trick again as it amplifies the impact of the scene. It focuses on the television screen to show the images of Young Elijah and his mother. Elijah unwraps the gift given by his mother and finds out that it is a comic book. The book is lying upside down on his lap. As he slowly rotates the book, the camera focuses on the book and swivels around to do a circular motion.

As the movie tries to establish the powers of David, we feel intrigued. A Doctor informs David that he was the lone survivor of the train accident and did not even have a minor injury. David comes out of the ward to meet his wife Audrey (Robin Wright) and son (Spencer Treat Clark) who were waiting for him as the families and friends of deceased people stare at him with a shock. In another instance, he stands in the middle of a moving crowd and when people bump into him or brush past him, he senses something when a person has committed a wrong deed. But the movie takes a long time to build the character of David and his abilities that it gets repetitive after a while so much so that seeing his abilities does not amaze you.

The mature take on the comic book was very impressive. Elijah shows a sketch of superhero fighting a villain to a visitor in his art gallery and describes it as “realistic depiction of figures” and a “vintage”.

The relationship between David and Audrey remained uninteresting and never really seemed to be of any significance. It hardly moves us seeing their marital life in disarray.

Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson should be offered thunderous claps for the amazing portrayal of David and Elijah respectively. Unbreakable exhibits intriguing storytelling of humans with unique abilities that turn repetitious along the way.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Movie Review: A whole new flavour of Spiderman saga

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Spiderman: Into the Verse is an inspiring, adventurous, humorous and entertaining animated superhero film

The Spiderman shoots a spiderweb and it gets stuck to a fast-moving train on a flyover. As he does so, he carries another injured Spiderman with him (Yes, there is more than one Spiderman). And we hear a funny dialogue in the background saying that a child dressed like a Spiderman is dragging along the corpse of a homeless guy. That child is Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) who is the main Spiderman in this film.  There are different Spiderman movies that were already made before this film. So, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse needed a fresh way of portraying this superhero character. Miles Morales as a school-going boy works tremendously well giving this animated film a whole new flavour.

The best thing I liked about this film was how it delineates a different perspective to this superhero character. As the movie explores the idea of “anyone can wear the mask, you can wear the mask”, it broadens the horizon of the way we see a Spiderman film. It was very exciting to see more than one Spiderman from different dimensions and that too with different abilities. There is, of course, a regular Spiderman who can shoot spiderwebs around and crawl up to the top of a skyscraper. But there is also a Spider-woman or to be more accurate Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld). There is an anime sort of Spider-girl (Kimiko Glenn) who uses a Spider-robot. We also see a Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage) who is from a black-and-white dimension and amazes us with dialogues like “Wherever I go, the wind follows and the wind smells like rain”. If you can’t get enough of it, there is a pig in the form of Spiderman called Spider-ham (John Mulaney) which uses Thor-ish hammer.

The narrative is set in Morales’s dimension and all these different Spiderman characters combat the antagonist Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) who is using the machine called Collider to get his family back from another dimension. It was great to see a very different take on the origins of Spiderman. As Morales gets bitten by a radioactive spider and experiences strange things, parallelly we get introduced to all those different Spiderman characters. And as the story moves along, it keeps springing up a lot of surprises which keeps us arrested. It was very interesting to see how the narrative linked Sam Raimi’s film Spider-Man (2002) and Marc Webb’s film The Amazing Spider-Man (2012). The CGI work that has been done for this film is outstanding. We see the comics-like feel throughout the movie. The inner thoughts of Morales appear in the form of conversation icons that hovers over him just as it does in the comics.

The movie beautifully brings out different emotions in us. I reminisced about my school days when Morales goes to school, meets his friends, and goes to the class late saying that it is not him who is late but the other students have got here early. The inner thoughts of Morales were very relatable with our own lives. For instance, when a teacher asks about his whereabouts, his inner thoughts asks him to “act dumb” and he ends up saying, “Who’s Morales?” and then thinks, “not that dumb”. There were many humorous instances as well. It was a sidesplitting comedy scene where Uncle Aaron (Mahershala Ali) teaches the “shoulder touch” to Morales and says “Hey!” in Joey-ish (Friends TV series character) style. It was a shocking and poignant scene where Uncle Aaron dies which leaves both Morales and his father in a state of grief.

I found this movie very inspiring as well. Morales finds it very difficult to use his powers early on as this film is a take on the origin of the Spiderman. But the movie is not solely focussed on the origins and keeps us engrossed with a lot of other surprises. So, it feels like the right time when he finally understands his powers and uses it to an astronomical effect. We feel inspired when the words of his father play in his mind (when he said that he sees a spark in Morales and whatever he chooses to do, he would be great). Spiderman: Into the Verse is an inspiring, adventurous, humorous and entertaining animated superhero film. Thanks to Stan Lee and Steve Ditko who have created such an amazing character which can take different forms and yet retain its glory.