DEADWHO?! – A Guide, A Retrospective & A Review

 

 

“Superman. Hell yeah! Batman. Epic! Wolverine. Badass! Spiderman. Wimpy but funny! Flash. Yeah, he’s cool. Green Lantern. Err…I think I know him. Deadpool! Err…what? Who the hell is Dead-whatsisname?”  

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So yeah. DEADPOOL finally happened to the world this week. Here’s your quick guide and catch-up to where he comes from, a movie review, and why he’s awesome.

 

 

DEADPOOL IS FINALLY MAINSTREAM AND IT’S OKAY TO TALK ABOUT HIM WITHOUT LOOKING LIKE A FREAK?!?! Phew.

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“DEADPOOL … cleaned up at the box office this past weekend, raking in more than $135 million domestically in a 4-day period. In February. That’s a hell of an accomplishment to be sure and one that hardly anyone saw coming (third biggest opening ever for a non-sequel, highest opening ever for an R-rated film, 3-day worldwide gross is 6 times its budget, etc). Well, except those that know the character and how significant he’s been since his inception. Created (in 1991) by Rob Liefeld & Fabian Nicieza in the pages of Marvel’s The New Mutants #98, DEADPOOL took off like crazy, selling 7 million copies combined of his first three appearances. That’s not a regular occurrence in comics. Looking very much like “Spider-Man with guns and swords” and with a smart ass attitude that grew even crazier and more intense throughout the years as he was passed on from creator-to-creator, DEADPOOL took shape as not only a popular X-books character, but a staple in pop culture as a whole.”

Paul Shirey, Joblo.com

Just when you thought all superhero films and origin stories were the same, here’s DEADPOOL to take everything up a notch – the swearing, the jokes, the violence, the farce, the meta-commentary. A Marvel movie which is rowdy, rude, crude, and rated R? Starring an unknown anti-hero who happens to be a crazy, ugly, psychopathic mercenary? YOU DON’T SAY!

After 2+ decades of being just under the radar, DEADPOOL has finally made the jump from comics to film – and what a jump it is! We’ve had a rabid fanbase hyping up the character for years, filmmakers (and star!) dedicated to the source material, and excellent marketing ever since the project was just an idea. Since the filmmakers were allowed to run the show the way they wanted (low budget, low expectations and all), I’m ecstatic to say the film brings Wade Wilson to cinematic life perfectly. Old-time fans will be giddy with familiarity, and new fans will first go ‘WTF’ and then be grinning as well. And for the uninitiated, it’s something you haven’t seen before. Seriously. Like this DP twerk.

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This is the kind of self-aware, self-deprecating film you don’t really expect from the safe-playing, money-grubbing Hollywood franchise-making machine, who milk out watered-down generic CGI fests one after the other in search for the next big blockbuster (case in point: Transformers 5, 6, 7 were just announced last week). This aversion to the R-rating and envelope-pushing, adult content is why we live in a world of neutered, PG-13 Die Hards, Terminators, Robocops, and Aliens.

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Geeky tirade aside, so, yeah, DEADPOOL. DEAD FRIKKIN’ POOL! He has a film out now, you see. But our story starts 18 years ago. Twas 1998 when I as a tween first flipped through a comicbook called DEADPOOL, and well, I was kinda blown away. And to this date, dear readers, this issue (#11) remains my ALL-TIME favorite single issue amongst the thousands of comics I’ve read:

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A BRIEF HISTORY OF OUR HERO

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Wade Wilson:

  • created in 1991 in issue 98 of NEW MUTANTS mostly as a somewhat psychotic villain and intentional rip-off of Deathstroke the Terminator over at DC Comics (whose real name is Slade Wilson btw)
  • An anti-hero from the X-Men side of the Marvel universe;
  • A psychotic mercenary who possesses a healing factor and regenerative powers;
  • a conflicted, neurotic killer, but not a bad guy all around. He wants to do good, but just happened to be in the wrong line of business;

AND most importantly,

  • When his own ongoing was launched in 1996, it suffered from the threat of cancellation continuously since there was nothing that seperated the character outright from other edgy, moody killer-types of the 90s. Joe Kelly, the writer, decided to go crazy with the character since any issue could be his last and there was nothing much to lose. He gave Wade a ‘comic awareness’ – a heightened sense of self-awareness; he knows he’s in a comic book, he understands the tropes and clichés of the world around him, and he can reference real-life events at any moment too. In geek speak, this is called ‘Breaking the Fourth Wall’ and this allows him to be the funniest, craziest, most pop-culture obsessed hero out there who also talks directly to you, the reader, at times.

 

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This oddball Spiderman-meets-Bugs Bunny character could deconstruct and destruct any and all oh-so-serious situations and characters around him; he could comment on and get away with anything due to his being insane and very meta. And now, when Superhero films are a dime a dozen and at their most popular, it’s the perfect time for DEADPOOL to take over that same unique space in films as well – a commentator, a fanboy, a critic, a troll, and a lead character all rolled into one.

REIGN YOURSELF IN, FANBOY! GET BACK TO THE FILM ALREADY

 

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Ryan Reynolds was born to play Wade Wilson. Here’s a likable, underrated actor who has always been on the cusp of superstardom but still an outsider. I’ve always like him and most of his stuff that I’ve seen over the years (Waiting, Van Wilder, Buried, The Voices) but he’s always had mediocre-to-good films on his resume, nothing major. And yeah. He was very miscast as GREEN LANTERN, a film which tanked his rising star for many years. But Wade Wilson…we the fans truly couldn’t think of a better actor for the role. RR gets WW (see what I did there?), and while DEADPOOL was desecrated in more ways than one in X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE, Reynolds proved that he had the chops and the crazy to pull of the right Merc with a Mouth. After campaigning like crazy for the film over the years, he finally got the film made and now that it’s here in all its rowdy, foul mouthed, bloody glory – it is absolutely awesome. It will subvert your expectations in the best way possible, it will make you guffaw and wince at the violence while making you care for the characters, and it will make you realize how cool it will be if we can now get some adult, edgier fare on a regular basis.

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You can tell how much fun everyone is having behind and in front of the camera; Tim Miller might be a first-time film director, but his expertise in special effects and his willingness to go all-out with the character is what really made this risky venture into what it became. Everyone else also brings a lot of heart to the film including the game supporting cast (Weasel! Blind Al! Ajax! Hydra Bob!), including two X-Men (this is the best iteration of Colossus on the big screen, and Negasonic is pretty damn cool too). This feels like an independent, character-focused story but still like a part of the larger X-Men universe, with high potential for future team ups (Cable! X-Force! DEADPOOL vs Wolverine!). As Fox wouldn’t allow too high a budget on an odd R-rated action-comedy, there are just 2 major action set pieces but admit it; you’ll watch this for the characters, not just the carnage. Now that the Deadheads have proven their might around the world and the film is well on its way to making oodles of money, the sequel will have a much bigger budget and much more action (and more X-Men?). For long-time fans, it’s great to see that the tone and style that the film adapts is closest to that of Joe Kelly, the man who in the late 90s wrote what most consider DEADPOOL’s best and most definitive run.

So tuck in the kiddies at home (it’s not a superhero film for kids, it’s for you!), sit back and enjoy the ride. If you like rude, loud comedies, violent actioners, or self-aware films like 21 and 22 JUMP STREET, THE LEGO MOVIE, and GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, you’ll love DEADPOOL.

This is the low budgeted, contagious movie that’s becoming a hit the old fashioned way – fun film pushing the envelope on its genre, great characters, passionate filmmakers. Ryan Reynolds and Wade Wilson were a match made in heaven – both likable, eccentric, charismatic, but never stars. Never A-Listers.

Until now, baby.

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STILL HERE? HERE’S A QUICK GUIDE TO THE BEST OF DEADPOOL

 

DEADPOOL THE COMIC GUIDE:

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The most detailed and best Guide on the Net I’ve seen so far:

COLLECTING DEADPOOL AS GRAPHIC NOVELS

Highly recommended:

Joe Kelly’s Run (collected in DEADPOOL CLASSICS 2-6) – this is by far the most definitive run – with the most heart and most laughs; this is the main inspiration for the film

Cullen Bunn’s Deadpool Trilogy – DEADPOOL KILLS THE MARVEL UNIVERSE, DEADPOOL KILLUSTRATED, DEADPOOL VERSUS DEADPOOL

It’s even crazier than it sounds.

Also…check out THE BEST DEADPOOL STORIES

 

THE FIRST TIME DEADPOOL APPEARED OUTSIDE OF COMICSBOOKS:

 

 

DEADPOOL, THE VIDEO GAME CUTSCENES:

 

SOME MORE ‘POOL AND SPIDEY:

 

 

 

Well. Phew. That’s a lot of geeking out for one day. If you still haven’t had your DEADPOOL fix, hit back and I’ll give ya some more fodder.

 

Catch you all soon!

Sohaib

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE BEST FILMS OF 2014 (or Something To Skim Through When You Go To The Loo)

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Been a while since I posted. Lazy, lazy man, I am.

I know we’re well into the new year and this should have been posted in December, but the Oscars are today so now’s a good time as any!

*drum roll*

Here are my TOP TEN FILMS OF 2014! I’ve er…actually cheated a bit to expand the top ten by having Special Entries since this was an exceptional year for film. Would love to know yours too.

Like all my ramblings, this is more of a ‘my favorites’ list and not the ‘greatest’ films of the year. That’s the whole thing about blogs, ya know. Opinions. And as usual, my favorite films often strongly revolve around genre / superhero films, so you’ve been warned.

MOVIES YET TO WATCH:

Haven’t seen these yet:
INHERENT VICE, SELMA, THE IMITATION GAME, THE HOBBIT: BATTLE OF FIVE ARMIES, THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PART 1, EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS, FURY, BIG HERO SIX, A MOST VIOLENT YEAR, TOP FIVE

HONORABLE / SPECIAL MENTIONS:

A MOST WANTED MAN

Wonderful, intelligent, top-notch thriller which also happens to be one of the last films of the amazing Phillip Seymour Hoffman. A riveting political thriller set in Berlin with Bosnians, Germans and the Americans in tow, and a commanding performance by PSH.

FRANK 

A weird, oft-kilter film, and a definite winner for anyone who’s Fassbender fan (whose mug is hidden behind that pumpkin-shaped giant head for 95% of the time), indie rock bands (especially the more odd, unpopular ones), and unconventional filmmaking.

VIDEO GAMES – THE MOVIE

For all current and relapsed gamers. Nostalgia, history, and good times.

PURGE: ANARCHY

Better than it had a right to be. Frank Grillo needs to be become a bigger star soon (although would you believe he’s over 50?!).

GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL

The world-within-a-world of Wes Anderson with a World War II theme, humor and surprising depth. But there isn’t enough Bill Murray to my liking. Ralph Fiennes is sublime.

CHEF

The little movie that could. In these ‘chefs are finally cool’ times, an apt movie and return to form for the indie side of Jon Favreau (the director and actor). The cast is awesome with Vergara, the kid, Lugeziamo, Oliver Platt, and Downey Jr.

EDGE OF TOMORROW

What a fun, old-school Tom Cruise action vehicle with a compelling concept, great direction, and Emily Blunt as a badass. And exo-skeletons versus aliens!

22 JUMP STREET

Well, this had to be amazing. It’s the original team, back again, for the sequel, with lots of batshit craziness and lots of meta humor! Gotta see this again.

COLD IN JULY

Michael C ‘Dexter’ Hall fans rejoice! Mullet fans rejoice! Don Johnson fans rejoice! Fans of gritty southern revenge flicks with a ragtag team on a mission rejoice!

THE INTERVIEW / NEIGHBOURS

Baby, you’re a Firework. Show ‘em what you’re worth.

TUSK

Awesomely fucked up. Only for those with a taste of the weird and…oh yeah. That awesome cameo. Kevin Smith, thank you for making such a insane movie just for the hell of it.

JOHN WICK

He took his time, but Keanu Reeves is back with a bang in the year’s best gun-fu and revenge movie. Take That, TAK3N! Fun times. Keep a look out for this directing duo.

THE ROVER

This under-the-radar Aussie flick starring the always-reliable Guy Pearce and the surprisingly effective Robert Pattison in a post-apocalyptic Outback is a guy’s guy movie throughout, with lots of vengeance, death, and dusty landscapes. A new-age, bleak Aussie Western, if you will.

ROBOCOP

As an avid fan of the 80s flicks, I expected this to be really bad. But a pretty cool, badass re-imagining for the 21st century. And it’s got Oldman and Keaton and Jackson! And I like this new guy who probably won’t catch a break now. Oh wait. He just got cast as Rick Flagg, the leader of the SUICIDE SQUAD. Yay!

A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST

Not a great movie by any means, but not as bad as everyone made it out to be. Watch if you’re a Family Guy purist, and for Neal Patrick Harris’s squiggly moustache.

FOXCATCHER

A pretty solid film about obsession, wrestling, money, family, and legacy. The three leads (Steve Carell, Channing Tatem, and Mark Ruffalo) all are aiming high with this one, and Carell’s awesome transformation has gotten him a pretty cool Best Actor nod. A bit too slow and cold though overall.

WORST FILM OF THE YEAR:

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TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION

Just horrible.

And…you gotta see the HONEST TRAILER for this one it is awesome (and rips the film another one)!

BEST INDIAN FILM OF THE YEAR:

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PK

I could write a book about how sublime and transcendent this film, its star and director are for all that they say, and how they say it. So we’ll write that book another day. A quick recap hence: Aamir Khan is a God Amongst Men in Bollywood (lame pun intended) and made a film as memorable, moving, life-encompassing, and norm-challenging as 3 IDIOTS, RANG DE BASANTI, and TAARE ZAMEEN PE. If you thought Bollywood has lost its magic, watch this now. Also, 2 other amazing Indian films this year: DEDH ISHQIYA and THE LUNCHBOX.

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BEST PAKISTANI FILM OF THE YEAR:

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NAMALOOM AFRAAD

Bravo, Mr Qureshi and your whole cast and crew! A quintessential Pakistani film which is not your doom-and-gloom serio-documentary but one which embraces life and all the problems we face daily while being all the more lively and strong for it. The cast makes magic together, Karachi feels like the real hustling and bustling Karachi, and Lollywood has never been this infectious, alive, and dripping of Pakistaniness.

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BEST COMEDY FILM OF THE YEAR:

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THE LEGO MOVIE

Everything truly was awesome! Who could’ve thunk that a film about our favoritest building blocks in the world could not only feature a touching central story, a loveable hero, Will Ferrell, AND the Goddamned Batman??! The 21 JUMP STREET directors Tim Lord and Chris Miller, that’s who. The fact that this film was not nominated for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars is a crime and a half. Old bastards.
The same duo btw gave us the OTHER best comedy of the year as well: 22 JUMP STREET.

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BEST HORROR FILM OF THE YEAR:

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THE BABADOOK

I hate horror films and the horror genre as a whole, given how derivative, overdrawn and terrible most entries in it have gotten. Not to mention the worst case of Sequelitis this side of American Pie spinoffs. But this little Aussie film is so much more….more a psychological thriller about a single mother and her 7 year old than an out-and-out gorefest, it’s a touching, haunting film about very human fears both of the unseen world as well as the world inside our heads.

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MOST UNDERRATED FILM OF THE YEAR WHICH IS AWESOME:

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THE GUEST

An almost-unknown film from an almost-unknown director with an almost-unknown British actor playing an American which will unknowingly get inside your head and blow it away! A mysterious guest shows up at a home in a small town, claiming to be the friend and teammate of a deceased army man. Action, chaos, a foot-tapping electro soundtrack, and a winning, star-making performance from Dan Stevens ensue. Yes. That is Mr Crawley from DOWNTON frikkin’ ABBEY. Yes. Really. Look closer.

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THE TOP 10….oh wait. Let’s cheat.

THE TOP 12 FILMS OF 2014

12:

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CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER

Being a massive fan of the comicbook and cinematic Captain, Chris Evans, the Russo brothers, and the Winter Soldier, I was elated to see how awesome and very modern, very Bourne-esque this Marvel film turned out to be. While the first Cap’n was all about a pulpy, noir feel and setting up Steve Rogers’ history (and a preamble to the Avengers), this one was more an espionage thriller than an out-and-out superhero venture. Marvel is really branching out with their genres now (more on that coming) and we’re loving it!

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11:

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SNOWPIERCER

Nice. Chris Evans’s films back to back. Anyhoo, an underrated gem which is a cross between bleak Asian art films and an action sci-fi thriller set in a dystopian future (is there any other kind?). The premise itself is very compelling (humanity has died in the wake of another Ice Age, and the only survivors left are on a continuously moving train called the Snowpiercer), but it’s the way the film is told with themes of class, creed, survival, the chain of command, tough decision, and those who have and those who don’t is what elevates it into a very unique pedigree of film. Evans continues to experiment with the types of roles he takes up and impresses as usual, but it is Tilda Swinton as a kooky warden who steals the show.

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10:

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THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING

The film takes us into the life of Dr Stephen Hawking, the gifted genius who was unravelling the mysterious of time while losing control of his own body, and tops it up with a touching love story. What makes this film so wonderful is the two leads whose relationship is the crux of the film, and this great biopic holds some of the most emotionally powerful moments of the year. I’d be rooting for Eddie Redmayne to win Best Actor this year because he BECOMES Dr Hawking, if it weren’t for another actor and film this year (coming up shortly).

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 9:

dawn-of-the-planet-of-the-apes-movie-wallpaperDAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES

The first one was a surprisingly good and intelligent film which made us forget the Tim Burton debacle completely; expectations from the sequel were high, but how Matt Reeves transformed the film from an ‘apes rule the world’ action movie to a parable on war, loyalty, the nature of man (ape?) alongside Andy Serkis’ phenomenal performance as Caesar made this so much more than an Apes sequel. Bring on the next one.

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8:

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BOYHOOD 

Richard Linklater is the most underrated great American director of the past 20 years. His films (which he mostly writes and directs) have never been war epics or period pieces, but always a slice of Americana, with characters being middle-class, everyday people from amongst us. His insight into the human condition is always compelling – whether in the form of BEFORE SUNRISE trilogy, BERNIE, DAZED & CONFUSED, TAPE, SCHOOL OF ROCK, WAKING LIFE, or A SCANNER DARKLY. His most common collaborator (and similarly underrated) is Ethan Hawke, who got a well-deserved Oscar nom for BOYHOOD. So as you all know, this is the coming-of-age (how I hate that clichéd line but here it’s more apt than anything else) tale of a boy from the time he’s a precocious, curious 7-year-old to the time he goes to college. What makes this film truly extraordinary isn’t just the fact it was shot over 12 years – an unprecedented bravura win for filmmaking – but also that seeing the actors grow into their roles and own them completely over this whole decade makes it all the more real. A lock for Best Picture.

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7:

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NIGHTCRAWLER

Jake Gyllenhaal is a rare breed of actor who continues to defy the easy path of A-List heartthrob by making smaller, odder, engaging movies. Although DONNIE DARKO, ZODIAC, END OF WATCH and especially the amazing PRISONERS gave us memorable Gyllenhaal roles, NIGHTCRAWLER was a whole other level of riveting awesomeness thanks to his Lou Bloom, a seedy crime journalist in LA. Dan Gilroy writes and directs and makes a very special, dark, sleek film which takes a man, his obsession and his surroundings and runs with it. Rene Russo and Bill Paxton shine bright after many years and Riz Ahmed (the Pakistani lead from FOUR LIONS) makes for a great second-in-command as well. Chilling, addictive, disturbing, awesome.

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6:

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GONE GIRL

My favorite Fincher film since FIGHT CLUB, my favorite thriller since…SE7EN? PRISONERS, probably. Great thrillers are few and far nowadays. Anyhow, the craziness and inventiveness of the film – direction, writing, twists, and the acting from top to bottom – is exponentially helped by the non-linear narrative, and Rosamund Pike OWNS the film. The way love, hate, marriage, and everything in the middle is explored is spellbinding. Also, Affleck proves he’s ready to take on Bruce Wayne, and Neil Patrick Harris and Tyler Perry cut their teeth on dramatic roles for a change.

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5:

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GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY

An unknown, obscure group of ragtag comicbook characters including a Raccoon and a Talking Tree in a film was the last thing you’d expect to be this awesome. But Marvel has yet to make a wrong step and GOTG turned out to be a smash hit not just with comicbook and action fans, but those of sci fi, comedy, and generally gonzo films as well. It made Chris Pratt a bonafide A-lister, and the soundtrack made sure that 70s music was on top of the charts in 2014 again. The Space has never been this much fun. A great comedy, caper, sci fi opera, and balls-to-the-walls action movie rolled into one. Hooked on a feeling? Totally.

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4:

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BIRDMAN

It’s not just the fact that the film is a trip and a half, cut to play like a single shot. It’s not just the fact that the script in itself is amazing and every scene can be considered someone’s favorite. It’s not just the fact that the cast is probably the best this year – Keaton, Norton, Stone, Watts, Galifaniakas, et al – and that everyone gets to put their acting chops on display (mostly highlighting angst). It’s not just the fact that it’s a satire and a surreal character study at the same time, turning to magic realism in the middle as well. It’s not just the fact that this could have been a trainwreck if it all didn’t click together as perfectly as it does.

It’s the fact that this film and the 2 leads are playing out themselves. Ed Norton is an actor’s actor who shuns blockbusters and the two times he did try to become part of the System (INCREDIBLE HULK, ITALIAN JOB) he couldn’t stand it – and here he plays a similarly over-educated, perfectionist thespian who has his own ticks. Michael Keaton (STILL my favorite Batman) was in every sense of the word a has-been, an also-ran, a nobody for today’s generation. His claim to fame remains being Batman 2 decades ago, and turning down BATMAN FOREVER (he walked when Tim Burton left), and not really being to do anything substantial since. It’s how he is willing to reveal all of Riggan Thomson’s inner demons and crises – including that walk around Times Square in only his undies. It’s how truly one of the most superficial yet scariest things is the world for most of us is not being relevant anymore. I couldn’t have rooted more for a comeback of a childhood favorite and hopefully this Sunday, he’s going to be relevant again by winning the Big One for Best Actor. Kudos, Mr Innaritu.

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3:

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WHIPLASH

A newbie director, a central cast of three, including a young, nerdy up-and-comer, a girl I haven’t seen before, and a character actor who’s been around for a while but has never been a leading man. A story about jazz music and a teacher and student. So on paper, something which could suck major balls.

Instead, we get the most electric, eclectic rollercoaster of a film in which not much happens in terms of time passed and ‘events’, but SO much happens which keeps you glued. A film about obsession, improvement, youth, experience, defiance, teamwork, and most of all, passion and perfection.

It’s a hard film to shake off – in the best way – and Miles Teller and especially JK Simmons own the screen the whole time. Finally, a well-deserved Best Actor in a Supporting Role Oscar cometh to J Jonah Jameson this Sunday.

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2:

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X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST

The seventh film in a series. A film tying the unexpectedly awesome prequel X-MEN: FIRST CLASS with the earlier X-trilogy which ended with a whimper with X3: THE LAST STAND. Starring actors – and there were A LOT of mutants – from both timelines, including younger and older versions for Xavier and Magneto. AND there is time-travelling, and another dystopian future, and death and destruction, and mutant persecution. And it wasn’t even being directed by Matthew ‘First Class’ Vaughn, but Bryan Singer, the helmer of the first 2 X-flicks. He hadn’t done anything worthwhile (SUPERMAN RETURNS…UGH) since X2 in 2003. So this was going to be an odd, mangled, 2 hours of film viewing with too much happening at the same time and then all coming to an abrupt end. The highlights could be some nostalgia and some fun action sequences.

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But then we watched it and this superhero epic was much better than any right it had to be. The juggling of the two timelines; the development of characters from both past and present; the emotional resonance of the many deaths in the future and the coming-of-age of those in the past; Wolverine tying it all up by being surprisingly subdued and introspective; the new mutants (Quicksilver being the standout), the horror of the Sentinels; the mixing of real world and mutant history; and finally, the revamping and fixing all the horrors of X3 and making everything end in such a high note, with us holding our breaths for the sequel (X-MEN: APOCALYPSE) in 2016. So yes. This was quite, quite, quite an achievement, and one of the best superhero movies ever.

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1:

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INTERSTELLAR

For everything that it stands for. For everything that it sets up. For everything it aims for. For everything that it questions. For everything it makes you question. For everything that it achieves. For everything that it makes you think. And for everything that it makes you feel.

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Also, the score.

See you after the Oscars, y’all!

In Defense of Superman: give MAN OF STEEL another chance

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Hollywood churns out a thousand films a year. However, very few films have the influence and clout to divide audiences intro strict love and hate camps. These films transcend staring at a screen for 2 hours in an air-conditioned, darkened room, and become something more. They resonate with individuals on a more personal level and make us realize why we love films in the first place. Most films that spark such intense crowd scrutiny and participation are often based on beloved properties with a substantial following – a cult of sorts – which over the years has itself become an authority on the subject. Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Batman, Star Wars, and Star Trek are such pop culture staples.

Then there’s Superman.

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Everyone and their mother – and probably grandmother- have heard of the S-Man. They’ve seen the ‘S’ logo, they know he flies, they know he’s Super. And he’s that rare comicbook superhero alongside Spiderman and Batman who was a household name even before the 2000s boom of comicbook movies (after which Marvel and DC heroes became mainstream and cool again). 95% of film goers did not care or even know about the likes of Wolverine, the X-Men,  Hellboy, Constantine, Deadpool, Daredevil, Thor, Iron Man, Spawn, and dozens others two decades ago. But Superman, everyone’s always known about. So a Superman movie is bound to get people talking. He transcends the comicbook or action film niche, and is truly the Biggest Superhero of them All (sorry, Rajnikant). That being said…

I know, I know.

Many people felt let down – even repulsed – by the reboot. The new beginning. The start of the DC cinematic universe. The Man of Steel. “What a bummer, a disappointment”, they said. Some movie buffs, some casual cinema-goers. A lot of long-time fans. On the flip side, many people loved it too.  Some action junkies. Some casual cinema-goers. Some long-time fans. But in this case, the Haters outnumbered the Supporters, and the overall feeler about the movie – the aftertaste which settles in once a film / book / show / event is a month old – is of disappointment, and bleakness for the future of the franchise.

The most common negatives associated with the film are that it had too much destruction and death; that it was too dark; not faithful to the real Superman, or his spirit; some said the ending was too un-Supermanish, and almost everyone said it lacked joy.

I want to make a case of why all that may be true for a lot of people, but…there’s light at the end of the tunnel. I’m here to state why I loved Man of Steel and why everyone needs to give this another viewing and another chance. It did have its problems – lack of humor, generally heavy and intense from start to end, massive devastation –  and I’m not saying it’s one of those rare perfect comicbook movies alongside The Dark Knight, X-Men 2, Spiderman 2, and The Avengers. But, I will say that it’s a damn great Superman movie with more pros than cons.

The first time I experienced it, I knew I had loved it. I hadn’t been able to absorb it all in, but the epicness of it all had left a wide smirk on my face. It delivered what you look for in a Superman origin tale; A mild mannered, nice guy from a farm who was the strongest man in the world but was cool with it? Check. Krypton and Earth and both sets of parents well covered? Check. Flight, fights, a strong villain and lots of smashing? Check and check.

Then I started hearing the backlash and I figured there was that chance that my favoring the movie was biased and only because of my unbending passion for all things comicbooky. After an insightful debate with my bestie (you know who you are), I realized it had left a bad taste in many people’s mouths. And I decided to not share my positive take until I had seen it again – this time objectively and more critically.

Going in the second time, I was thinking “this will be fun…it’s Superman and action-packed, but it’s a bit dark and joyless and 2.5 hours is a lot” but once I was in, I forgot that I had seen this before and just immersed myself in. To my own surprise, I loved it even more this time around. Here is why I think it works wonderfully well.

 

1.      THE ORIGIN: It’s Super, man!

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“You will give the people an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.” Jor El

First of the bat, let’s make this clear: this is a Superman origin tale. It is supposed to tell us where the character comes from, what drives his motives and actions, what shapes his behavior, and what we can expect to follow. To expect it to be as good as The Avengers (which was a ‘team origin’ film but with all major characters established over many years) or The Dark Knight (a latter episode in the life of Batman after his origin was established in Batman Begins) is unfair. Also, origin films are always tricky – there’s only so much you can do in an origin film because doing too much (Green Lantern, Prince of Persia), or too little (Superman Returns, Daredevil) can instantly sink you.

Also, all origins have to go through some loops, especially for any film which has a rabid fanbase – in this case, the original home base (Krypton), the adopted home (Earth), the elders who shape our hero’s character (Jor & Kara, Ma & Pa), the love interest (Lois Lane), and the final part of the puzzle– the first main baddie, who will push our hero to the point where he will make a decision which will define him for the rest of his life (General Zod).

But background establishment aside, what is the film REALLY about? In a nutshell, to me, the film is about defining who Superman is, why he matters, and what it means for the world (in this case, the DC Cinematic Universe) to have him around. And this is not at all an easy task. In this digital age with Xboxes and MMPORPGs and dime-a-dozen CGI action movies, can he stand out anymore? In the time for anti-heroes, with their mystery, angst, secrets, dark past, dubious morals, anti-establishment personas, what can Big Blue bring to the table? The only way to ensure he stood out was to tell it how it is. To keep it real.

DC had to establish why this character is the most beloved superhero in the world; because he will always do the right thing. Not because he has to, but because he should. That’s why he’s been around since the 1930’s – because fads have not affected him or jaded him. Hundreds of others have come and gone, but he stuck around. He’s had his slumps, and haters, but the great thing is DC always kept his character consistent: a Good Man with Great Power.  This same tone is thankfully maintained in the film; the continuous mention of his immense power which can change the world, his future role as Earth’s protector, and him being the Last Stand when it came to anyone messing with the planet set the tone for not only the alien invasion later in the story, but also for the future set of films.

A great thing is how the film is equal parts Kal El and Clark Kent. How his parents (both biological and adopted) shaped him into the myth everyone knows and loves. How everything that defines Superman’s character – modesty, humility, control, grace, courage – are not attributes of his superpowers, but his upbringing at a farm by two loving parents. Clark is that shy cousin of yours who doesn’t talk too much, and might bore you at times, but he’s always around when you need him.

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Talking about the story, a great origin is one which isn’t about just the past, but also about the future. It talks about what fans already know about the characters – the larger story arcs, the myths, the drama – and sews it into its characters in a foreboding, reverent manner. Case in point: STAR TREK (2009) and BATMAN BEGINS (2005). Both re-introduced the characters quite well, but the bigger achievement was making the story larger than the present.  These films went beyond the action, the story, or even the characters. These films were about Legacy. They hammered loud and clear how and who these young individuals would become, of the great adventures these characters would witness in the future and how it all begins here. I think there is no better way of thanking the fans for their decades of commitment than this tipping-of-the-hat to everything that has gone before, and everything that will happen again. I think this continuous mention of the past, present, and future is what makes this origin as good as the other two.

 

2.      THE MAN AND HIS TWO WORLDS

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“Make a better world than ours, Kal.” Lara Lor-Van

In Henry Cavill we have a Clark Kent who looks like a farm boy – naïve, earnest, reserved – and a Superman / Kal El who is confident, powerful, and quite take-charge. Notice how his voice and demeanor changes whenever he is in his Superman costume and has to ‘play the part’, including his first contact with the US Army. Most people complained about how he never got to have any fun in the movie as Clark Kent at the Daily Planet. This one had a lot of Kal and Krypton backstory to cover – I’m  sure that’s how the sequel will start off so we should be getting a good dose of that soon too.

Also to succeed, any good film needs one more thing with a good lead: a good heart. MoS has that in spades. A heartless film is very easy to single out nowadays – sorry, After Earth and Lone Ranger– but Snyder ensures we know that the filmmakers take Superman as seriously as the fans, and they don’t let up on this at any point. Snyder is often criticized for making intense, cinematic, but humorless films (300, Watchmen, Dawn of the Dead) but one thing he always has down a 100% is his heroes. Leonidus in 300, Rorshach in Watchmen, Baby Doll in Sucker Punch, and now Kal in Superman – all believe in their cause almost to a fault and this gives them a life of their own. Snyder’s heroes are all grand, heroic, larger-than-life, and this is exactly what Superman needed.

The other key cast players are just as good. I think amongst all the complaints against MoS, the one you won’t hear is casting. WB got every one spot on; from Cavil’s physique and his do-gooder, earnest demeanor, to Michael Shannon’s intense, fanatic Zod whose only goal is the survival of his people; from Russell Crowe’s memorable portrayal of Jor El as a classy, intelligent scientist and Superman’s father, to Kevin Costner’s take on Pa Kent as a wise, weary, good hearted farmer who is more perceptive than he seems and has always known what miracles his son will perform once ‘the world is ready for him’; to Diane Lane’s understated, doting mother who is as strong as her son; to Amy Adams’ feisty, go-getter Lois Lane who isn’t a bimbo bombshell  but a strong, independent woman and how Superman’s girlfriend should be. Even the supporting players – Chris Meloni as Colonel Hardy, a tough-as-nails army man initially wary of Superman’s motives , and Andte Traue as Faora, Zod’s leading lieutenant who believes in his cause more than her life, are engaging on screen and never look like they are phoning in their performances. Standouts are definitely the two Dads for me – both the most crucial in shaping Kal as a person.

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The one gripe in casting some people had was Lois – I do believe Amy Adams is a great fit because having someone with knockout, supermodel looks would naturally overshadow the wit, intelligence, and girl-next-door appeal of Lois. She is too nosey and yes, happens to be everywhere in every scene, which makes her less likable than, say, Pepper Potts, but she should grow on all of us. Most importantly, the chemistry between the two leads gets better as the movie progresses, to the point that the final re-introduction between Lois and Clark at the daily planet brings a giddy smile to my face.

 

3.       THE ACTION: BANG, POW, BOOM!

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“I was bred to be a warrior, Kal. Trained my entire life to master my senses. Where did you train? ON A FARM?”  General Zod

Like most of you fine people, since I was a wee toddler, I’ve dreamt of seeing Superman in action on the big screen. Like in the comics. Like in the amazingly-realized Justice League animated series and films, and even the 80s and 90s solo cartoon series. Did I get that after the emo snorefest that was SUPERMAN RETURNS and the cutesy but quite dated earlier Superman films? Nopes. Did I get it in Man of Steel? Hell yeah.

The action here is balls to the walls, just like we dreamt it. Super-sonic flights. Powerful take-offs. Explosions. Rolling for yards and yards after a super-punch. Flying punches. Wall smashes. Car throwing. Going through multiple walls. Smashing buildings. Punches into space. Tearing a building in half with eye lasers. Oh, and still standing tall. What more boom could anyone want from a Superman film, that too an origin?

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But putting aside my love for Brute Superman showing everyone why he shouldn’t be messed with, my biggest complaint with the film after the first viewing too was the massive, uncalled for destruction in the movie, and how much of it Superman could have avoided. This was my biggest bane and why I needed to go back for a second closer look. In fact, here’s a super-entertaining infographic developed just to highlight the amount of damage done to Metropolis in the film.

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But… surprisingly enough, upon my 2nd viewing, I realized how Superman cannot be singled out or held responsible for most of this carnage. Why? Note in which sequences we have the most damage, and how much of it is Kal’s fault himself:

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During Smallville’s destruction is on the hands of the Army and Faora and the giant Kryptonion, Superman is just part of the equation and what causes the most harm is the missile strikes and the two Kryptonians going ape-shit on Supes and the airplanes. The most controversial devastation – the unneeded annihilation of Metropolis at the end too is 80 percent due to the World Engine, and 20% due to the Zod/Kal fight towards the end. The fight too takes place after this part of the city has mostly been leveled due to the Phantom Drives colliding and creating the mini-black hole (again, not Superman’s doing and unavoidable given this was how they took out Zod’s forces). So the damage was immense; but putting it on just Superman’s carelessness is unfair. You can blame the filmmakers for being irresponsible, but at no point outside of the final fight with Zod does it seem like Superman himself is feeding off the destruction and chaos.

Yes, I agree that Superman should have taken the fight to an unoccupied territory or rampaged through less buildings, and yes, the destruction at the end is on par if not more than the finale of The Avengers and Transformers 3. But again, this is a film about the most powerful superhero of them all and it had to end with a bang. Why he’s in a League of his own (pun intended) is exactly because he can fight off world-threatening maniacs and villains on his own, just like a superteam. And let’s face it: if aliens were to attack the Earth and set up two World Engines to terraform the planet, there would be some massive-level destruction, at least in the city where they’re set up.

To sum up, I am against glorified, stylized violence in any form and a lot of the destruction here was bloated and unneeded; but that doesn’t make this film a bad one, and neither does it make Superman the man less faithful to his earlier incarnations. It is just a chink in a very good film’s armor.

Which brings us to one final major gripe against the film…

 

4.       THE CHOICE: EARTH OR KRYPTON

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“You’re not just anyone. One day, you’re going to have to make a choice. You have to decide what kind of man you want to grow up to be. Whoever that man is, good character or bad, it’s going to change the world.”  Jonathan Kent

I know what Superman stands for. The Right Thing. I’m well aware and fully support his One Rule; thou shall not kill (just like Batman, or Spiderman). They might be more flexible with it at points, and he is supposed to be the best of them, hence he should NEVER kill.

But…whether we talk about Doomsday, Brainiac, Metallo, or many other villains from the Superman comics, there have been times, and there will always be times, when a hero will have no choice but to break this rule. If it’s one life for another, then in a way, doesn’t the Right Thing become ensuring the safety of the innocent over those who mean them harm? This is definitely a grey area, and it’s not right or commendable, but it’s how it has to be done.

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Secondly, this is where this version of Superman was defined, where his origin was truly completed; Kal is given a choice between Earth and Krypton – one or the other, not both. And throughout the film he goes through flashbacks and experiences which are telling him that one day, he will have to define his territory, his motherland. Will it be Earth? Will he own up to becoming its protector as both Jor El and Pa Kent had prophesized, or will he abandon his adopted home for his birth one? This is where it comes full circle – he chooses Earth by saving the humans, and says goodbye to Krypton by killing off the last Kryptonion he knew. This is his closure; this is where Kal becomes Earth’s Clark Kent, and hence Superman. This is an extreme measure he was forced to take, and his remorse is shown immediately afterwards when he falls to his knees and cries out of anger, guilt, and helplessness. Had the execution not been followed up by this shot of how Superman has been affected by it, then we’d have a case of murder in cold blood. This however is a classic comicbook supervillain death; a hero does what he has to do, and then he has to live with this hard decision forever.

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Finally and building on the previous point, the death of Zod at the hands of Superman is not a finished storyline as yet, and neither is the destruction of Krypton. These are issues which will be addressed in the sequel, and will shape not only Superman’s image in the public eyes, but will also affect how the future DC Universe deals with crime, punishment, and vigilante justice. That makes this shock ending a neat little surprise, which tells us that shit does hit the fan in this world but not without consequences. This is a darker, more mature universe than the Marvel one in many ways. Which brings us to my penultimate point in defense of my favorite Superman film.

 

5.       THE COMPETITION

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“My father believed that if the world found out who I really was, they’d reject me… out of fear. He was convinced that the world wasn’t ready. What do you think?” Clark Kent

Superman vs Thor. Batman vs Captain America. Wonder Woman vs Miss Marvel. Flash vs Spiderman. Green Lantern vs  Iron Man. Lobo vs Wolverine. Justice League vs The Avengers. The epic, never-ending rivalry between DC and Marvel is something fans can discuss and debate for hours. Which is the better universe? Which has the better stories? The better heroes?

I avidly follow both universes, but on the whole, I’ve always been a stronger Marvelite. I love DC, especially Supes, Batman, Flash, and their Vertigo lines, but that wraps up their greatest titles. Marvel has more compelling and fun characters which I have followed more strongly over the years. No one is as captivating or trailblazing as Superman or Batman, but the variety at Marvel is what makes me give it a slight edge.

That being said, the biggest difference between the two for me has always been how Marvel has a more fun universe with lots of crossovers and lighter stories; DC is more epic is scope, has bigger, darker, grander storylines, and can be termed more adult-friendly. Given this decades old trend, naturally the DC Cinematic Universe should be darker too. Superman, Batman, and hence MoS, had to be darker in tone than say, the iron Man and Spiderman trilogies.  l feel it had to differentiate itself from the Marvel movies, just like in the comics. These are two distinct universes, and I love both for their strengths. DC should stick to theirs.

Also, talking about competition, another point is expectations and quality of comicbook films in the past decade. Had MoS come out a decade ago, it would be the most favorite film of the year for most comicbook lovers. It’s only because now we live in a lucky age where every summer is filled with at least three major comicbook movies dishing it out, and we have seen the likes of The Dark Knight, The Avengers, the Spiderman movies, the X-Men series, and so much more that now we scrutinize and compare every movie to what has followed before. Another interesting thing is how the earlier Superman movies were very children-friendly, and happy-go-lucky. Fans of the earlier Christopher Reeve series hence were expecting a softer, less-action heavy film and they did not get that at all.

The dislike for the score and theme also suffers from competition: “it’s not as good as the 1978 theme”. That is a masterpiece, I agree. But take this for it is; it’s supposed to be new, and different. It’s modern, strong, and grand. I’ve seen the film only twice but it has stuck in my head and I love it now. It builds up throughout the film, with subtle queues when Clark’s young, gaining momentum as he becomes Superman, and eventually organically blending into the major scenes.

So, on the whole, MoS is not as good as TDK or The Avengers. But that doesn’t mean it had to be; very few movies will be as good. As a standalone film, barring competition and what has come out in the previous years, is it an overall good Superman movie? Yes. The best I’d say. So I think timing, expectations, and the Marvel versus DC universes put a lot of pressure on this one singular origin film, which was supposed to only kick off the universe, not be its masterpiece. That masterpiece is coming, give it time. Which brings us to my final point, fellow fans.

 

6.       THE FUTURE: WORLD’S FINEST

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“Hi. Lois Lane. Welcome to The Planet.”  Lois Lane

“Glad to be here, Lois”. Clark Kent

We have been acquainted; now let the games begin. Keep in mind Batman Begins, followed by The Dark Knight; Spiderman followed by Spiderman 2. Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor leading to The Avengers. This was just one part of the puzzle; let DC show you more of their universe.

Just remember, this is just the beginning. Towards the end of the film, Clark puts on his glasses, walks into the Daily Planet and is introduced to the team and then Lois Lane. She looks at him, smiles, and quips, “welcome to the Planet, Clark”. Clark replies, “Glad to be here”.  For me, this was as exhilarating and goosebumpy a closing scene as the Batman Begins ending, where Batman meets Gordon atop a building next to the Bat Signal, and Gordon hands him over a bunch of playing cards with ‘Joker’ and some blood on them, and Batman says “I’ll look into it”. We know at this point that the origin is out of the way, and now, we can finally get to the actual adventures of our hero. Same with Star Trek’s ending, when the ominous, classic ‘these are the adventures of the USS Enterprise’ monologue comes in, whetting our appetite for not so much what has happened, but what is yet to come.

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So relax. It’s the origin. I’m sure Snyder and David S. Goyer – who wrote both this and Batman Begins – have a Dark Knight up their sleeve for the sequel, and this was where they tell you who our hero is.

Oh. Hold on. That’s actually literal now. At the just-concluded San Diego ComicCon 2013, Snyder broke the biggest news of the event when he and Henry Lennix officially announced that Batman will be joining Superman in his next adventure on-screen. Fans worldwide went batshit crazy (pun intended), and my anticipation of summer 2015 doubled yet again. We are in for an epic, epic summer with THE WORLDS FINEST, THE AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON, and STAR WARS EPISODE VII.

So DC knows what they’re doing. They have some big plans. This was just the beginning, and it was damn fine. Check out Man of Steel again; in time, just like me, you will join him in the sun too.

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Oscars 2013 : Who Should Win and Who Will Win

 

It’s that time of the year folks…ZE OSCARS!!! My Picks and would love to hear about your favorites. Seth McFarlane is hosting (woohoo!), so that makes it all the more must-watch. All the contenders this year for a change are quite mainstream, have recall, earned a good amount of cash at the box office, and are quite the 7-course meal. As every year, we all have our favourites, and then there are the obvious winners.

 

 

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BEST PICTURE

Who should win:

LIFE OF PI (sheer beauty on screen, and the message is as feel-good as they get). Yes, the ending might feel somewhat cheap compared to the buildup, but it keeps you in awe from first minute to the last.

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or…

ARGO: (for how gripping it is, and for not being an anti-Iran, jingoistic glorification but instead a thrilling genuine story);

or…

DJANGO UNCHAINED: one of my favourite films of the year, but was more of Tarantino and there wasn’t something particularly new here or ‘insightful’ from an Oscar perspective. An amazing achievement and a kickass film, but Best Picture needs something more methinks.

Who will win:

ARGO (looking at the momentum its build up, and the fact it’s a great ensemble; you cant’ go wrong with Walter White in your effing movie)

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or LINCOLN (biopic of a celebrated president, played by Daniel Day-Lewis, directed by Speilberg. Really? You need an explanation?)

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BEST DIRECTOR

Who should win:

ANG LI for LIFE OF PI. Filming the unfilmable.

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Or BEN AFFLECK (not nominated) for ARGO.

Or TARANTINO (yes, not nominated).

Who will win:

STEVEN SPIELBERG for LINCOLN. His 3rd Oscar. Well, in all honesty, if anyone deserves 3, it’s got to be him.

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BEST ACTOR

Who should win:

DANIEL DAY-LEWIS (just like every year since he was born – greatest actor ever and as serious about his craft as Christian Bale and Bobby DeNiro of the ’70s combined)

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HUGH JACKMAN (because he can sing, make everyone cry, he’s Wolverine, Aussie, and very likable),

DENZEL WASHINGTON (what a bravura performance in the underrated FLIGHT, although he’s been there before),

JUOQUIN PHEONIX (haven’t seen THE MASTER yet, but even the trailer is goosebumpy)

Who will win:

DANIEL DAY-LEWIS for LINCOLN (hence making history in the process, being the first-time 3 Best Actor Oscar winner)

 

BEST ACTRESS

Who should win:

EMMANUELLE RIVA from AMOUR. The oldest ever best actress nominee at 85, and I haven’t seen the film yet, but supposedly her performance is hair-raising. And at this age? Wow.

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The 9-year-old nominated from BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD is supposed to be a prodigy too, and also sets a record for youngest-ever nominee…but she’ll get more chances later on. Trust me, kid. You’re not even ten yet.

Who will win:

JESSICA CHASTAIN (ZERO DARK THIRTY); this was her year, and this is a black ops / military movie with a strong female protagonist; of course she’s going to win.

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BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Who should win:

CHRISTOPH WALTZ, DJANGO UNCHAINED. What a turnaround from his Oscar-willing role in INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, and yet, still just as charismatic, cool and badass. Django the movie and the man would be nothing without his icy, intelligent bounty hunter with a heart.

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ROBERT DENIRO, SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK. Just because he hasn’t done a decent movie in a decade, and they need to tell him he’s still got it.

Boy, but this category is the most talent-packed. TOMMY LEE JONES has a shot, PHILLIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN is just mesmerizing in everything, ALAN ARKIN has perfected this kind of role.

Who will win:

CHRISTOPH WALTZ, DJANGO UNCHAINED.

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Who should win:

SALLY FIELD, LINCOLN. Come on. She’s been around so long, and she was as Lincolny as Lincoln in LINCOLN.

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Who will win:

ANNE HATHEWAY, LES MISERABLES. Haven’t seen the movie yet so can’t comment, but I hear she is just getting it because she sings well, and she is Catwoman. Yup.

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BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Who should win:

MOONRISE KINGDOM. Robbed at the Oscars. Can a film be too quirky for its own good? Or too creative?

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DJANGO UNCHAINED, because it deals with slavery and racism in such an intelligent, well-disguised package, and because of the dialogue.

FLIGHT. What a beautiful layered character study, with a flawed protagonist who is likable and pitiful at the same time. Glad Robert Zemeckis is back making live-action movies after his addiction to CGI motion capture in the past decade.

Who will win:

ZERO DARK THIRTY. Groan.

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BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Who should win:

LIFE OF PI. They said it was un-adaptable. They were wrong.

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ARGO. Taking a de-classified case and making it into a thrillride with political undertones without being preachy or biased = Genius.

Who will win:

LINCOLN, or ARGO. Probably ARGO.

BEST ANIMATED FILM

Who should win:

PARANORMAN. Come on, Oscar people. Support the little guys too. Don’t kill off stop-motion completely.

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(not even nominated) RISE OF THE GUARDIANS for its inventiveness, action, and fanboy take on children’s myths.

Who will win:

BRAVE. Because it’s PIXAR with a bow-and-arrow-carrying underdog female protagonist.

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BEST SCORE

Who should win:

LIFE OF PI, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (not nominated, of course).

Who will win:

LINCOLN.

BEST SONG

Who should win:

I guess ADELE because she’s everything Taylor Swift or Rihanna are not. Talented, and not skinny. Though LES MISERABLES could win – HUGH JACKMAN should win for Suddenly. He’s Wolverine.

Who will win:

ADELE, SKYFALL.

BEST FOREIGN FILM

Who should win: AMOUR.

Who will win: AMOUR.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Who should win:

LIFE OF PI, DJANGO UNCHAINED.

Who will win:

LIFE OF PI. Consolation win.

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS:

Who should win:

PROMETHEUS. Every second if it drips with eye candy.

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LIFE OF PI. Richard Parker. Is not real. Was never real. Is not a real tiger. That, is magic.

AVENGERS. No elaboration needed.

Who will win: 

LIFE OF PI.

 

So. Mark your calenders. It’s this Sunday. See all you lovely folks at the movies!!!

Sohaib

20, 20: Twenty Greatest Performances, 1992-2012

I haven’t written a list in a while, and last night, I wanted to. So here we are.

So. 1992. 2002. 2012. How time flies. Can you believe it’s been 20 years since Aladdin came out? Since Batman Returns? Basic Instinct? Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar? 20 years. Most of us have grown lots in this time, from young ‘uns to well, not-so-young-‘uns. So I thought let’s put together a 20, 20 list. The ‘20,20 List’ Series is basically a Top 20 which centers around the past 20 years of pop culture. Greatest performances (actors, actresses, supporting), films, comedies, forgotten gems, sequels, tv shows – you get the drift.

The best thing about lists is….they are just that. Lists. Of who-likes-what-and-why, of numbers and ranks, of countdowns, and everything is up for discussion. There is nothing more fun than getting to rank things in general – whether we are ranking our favourite performers, countries, songs, films, desserts, or what-have-you.

To inaugurate, I’d like to start with the most basic of lists. My list of Greatest Performances on Film. What an interesting word ‘greatest’ is…it refers to the best-of-the-best bar none, and it can be as subjective as one’s favourite colour. But on the whole, if we were to take the general consensus on ‘greatest male performance’, the answer more-often-than-not comes out to be Robert Deniro as Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull, Al Pacino as Tony Montana in Scarface or Scent of A Woman, Daniel Day Lewis’ various roles (notably My Left Foot and There Will Be Blood), and most recently, Heath Ledger’s turn as the Joker in The Dark Knight.

But for the sake of simplicity (and potential future articles), I’m sticking to 20 performances over 20 years – 1992 to 2012. These are the performances which made us sit up and take notice of the actor’s absolute metamorphosis into their character, all the while immortalizing them forever in the annals of filmdom.  Some of these perfectly captured the zeitgeist and will always be defining characters of their era, while others were just plain memorable due to the actor’s compelling characterization.

The “Rules”:

  • no videos here, so no spoiling the movie for you with crucial or best scenes; just some iconic visuals. And no spoilers in general either.
  • For the sake of variety and because some actors are obviously too good to be not mentioned here multiple times (Gosling, Bale, Cage, Day Lewis, Washington), one actor gets one spot only. I’m planning to write a Greatest Actor of the Past 20 Years next, which will cover people with multiple great performances better.
  •  This list is just for LEAD roles where one single individual shone, so no supporting actor roles, no ensemble movies. That will be another article, so The Joker and Tom Cruise from Magnolia can wait.
  • I’m counting just Hollywood / UK films for the time being, so no European or Asian cinema mentioned here. Sorry Oldboy, The Lives of Others, The Diving Bell & the Butterfly, Bol, Three idiots and Lagaan.
  • The 20,20 series is NOT just about roles or characters which shaped contemporary pop culture  and their mainstream success; although some of these roles have actually left a lasting impression on the public’s consciousness, others are quiet, restrained performances which might have gone unnoticed. Hence the article.
  • Due to this ‘favourites versus popular‘ structure of the list, some definite staples of pop culture like Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow, Arnie as T-800, Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, and Christian Bale as Batman don’t make the cut.  It’s not that the performances weren’t amazing – it’s just that others were better in carving out an unforgettable character.
  • A spot is based on performance in one singular movie. Franchises and movies with sequels do not give an actor extra points; e.g., just because Bruce Willis has been John Mclane multiple times doesn’t guarantee him a spot.
  • Hope you all enjoy the list, and end up catching some movies you might have missed. Feedback as usual is most welcome, and debate even more so. I’d love to find new movies I haven’t seen yet. So let’s start, shall we?

 

Roles Yet to Watch which could have been here (that’s what I’ve heard):

Michael Shannon – Take Shelter

Gary Oldman – Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Tom Hardy – Bronson

Eric Bana – Chopper

 

Honourable Mentions:

Guy Pearce – Memento

Jeff Bridges – The Big Lebowski

James Franco – 127 Hours

Woody Harrelson – People Vs Larry Flynt

Hugh Jackman – The X-Men films

Anthony Hopkins – Remains of the Day

Forrest Whitaker – The Last King of Scotland

Matt Damon – Good Will Hunting

Colin Farrell – In Bruges

Sean Penn – Milk

Jean Dujardin – The Artist

Russell Crowe – Gladiator

Jack Black – Bernie

Robin Williams – Mrs Doubtfire

20.

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Viggo Mortensen – Nikolai, Eastern Promises (2007)

He was almost a nobody before he became the perfect Aragorn for all fans in the LOTR series, and he continued to prove how varied and layered an actor he was with The History of Violence, Hidalgo, The Road, and this little gem. Playing an aging but lethal Russian driver-cum-mobster, Mortensen – very much an American – completely transformed into the very Russian, wiry, compelling, vicious and loyal Nikolai. And absolutely badass. Check this almost-forgotten crime flick from David Cronenberg (The Fly, A History of Violence) if you haven’t already. Mortensen is surrounded by great actors in Naomi Watts as the women he has to protect, Vincent Cassell as the devious best friend, and Armin Mueller-Stahl as the man he serves.

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Shining Moment: The sauna fight. “Nuff said.

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19.

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Tom HanksForrest Gump, Forrest Gump (1994)

 

Probably the most renowned performance in this whole list (both commercially and critically), Forrest Gump gave Tom Hanks his 2nd Oscar in a row – following 1993’s PHILADELPHIA. And what a win it was.

Rare movies have the charm, warmth, and likability to attain ‘classic’ status so quickly; looking back, some might call it somewhat melodramatic, but I still love this Robert Zemeckis film and believe it to be the most original and entertaining films to come out of Hollywood…ever.

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But more on Hanks – he had played earnest, straight guys before, he had dabbed into romantic comedies. And here, he was playing a very lucky dumbass for lack of a better phrase. But without Hanks as the crew-cut-wearing, southern accent-tinged Forrest, the movie would probably have never seen the love it still enjoys. Hanks made the sentimentality real and provided us with a simpleton worth rooting for. 6 years later, he reunited with Zemeckis for CASTAWAY, another performance which almost made it here. Almost.

 

Shining Moment: “Run, Forrest,run!”

 

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18.

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Al Pacino – Det. Will Dormer, Insomnia (2002)

Al Pacino. Ah. Al Pacino. I don’t have to add much here. DOG DAY AFTERNOON. SERPICO. THE GODFATHER PART II. SCENT OF AWOMAN. HEAT. And many others. Lots of people figured by the noughties Pacino’s talent must’ve dried up.

 

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And yet, here, playing a old, haggard, detective for whom the law is not so black and white anymore, Pacino proved once again that he was still the king when it came to playing conflicted, disillusioned heroes. As a man stuck in snowy, sunny Alaska on the hunt for a killer, Pacino was in top form, taking our breath away and making us as insomnia-struck and paranoid as detective Dormer. And seeing two of my favourite actors – Pacino and Robin Williams, playing against type as the cunning villain – face off made this movie a masterpiece for me. Oh. And a little-known director at the time called Christopher Nolan made this crime classic and this was his Big Budget Hollywood Movie after the ingenius indie MEMENTO. You might have heard of him by now.

 

Shining Moment: Face-to-face with his tormentor, after sleepless nights.

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17.

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Adrien Brody – Wladyslaw Szpilman , The Pianist (2002)

 

I was 19 when I watched this film and already a massive film geek, but I had never heard about  Adrien Brody till this came out. Then I watched The Pianist, and I was floored. And with the youngest man to ever win an Oscar for this role (29 years), this was a performance of a lifetime.

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Brody played Wladyslaw Szpilman, a wealthy, talented pianist belonging to the upper class in pre-WWII Poland and the film – an ode to the Holocaust by legendary Polish director Roman Polanski. The two took us through this true story of survival. The reason the performance was exceptional was because a lot of it had Brody on his own, without dialogue, just simply trying to survive, and his gradual transformation from a rich, thriving artist to a starving, animalistic man was worthy of all the accolades that followed. We wanted him to make it through because of the horrors he had witnessed, and his eyes carried all the sadness in the world in them. A haunting performance which Brody has never been able to shake off. Just like us.

Shining Moment: playing piano once again, after many, many years.

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16.

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Robert Downey, Jr – Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (2005)

 

Downey, Jr was down (heh) and out by the 2000’s. A late 80’s-early 90’s has-been who was now notorious for his DUI’s and his drug addiction. There were no big movies coming out with his name at the marquee, there was no fanfare or excitement amongst anyone to have him star in anything. Everyone expected him to go the Charlie Sheen route, of signing up as almost-himself on a TV show and milk that for as long as he can. But Shane Black – the writer of the LETHAL WEAPON series- changed everything.

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Black made a little satirical noir without any fanfare called KISS KISS, BANG BANG, which to put it bluntly, is quite the ultimate fanboy indie flick – a mystery cum comedy cum action cum buddy cum romance set in mysterious Hollywood and led by a thief in the wrong place at at the wrong time. Robert Downey Jr came back out of obscurity and into the limelight playing a wisecracking, fourth-wall-breaking detective, and this new avatar of his – witty, flawed, neurotic, hearty – etched out a new kind of hero for our times which had been empty since probably Mel Gibson of the 80’s. Anyone who saw this neo noir comedy fell in love with the movie itself and its wonderfully quirky cast (Val Kilmer as Gay Perry and the perfect counterpart to Downey Jr, Michelle Monaghan as the love interest). Its tongue-in-cheek, playful self was defined and carried throughout by Downey, Jr who was offered the role of Tony Stark in IRON MAN based on this role. So IRON MAN, IM 2, and later on THE AVENGERS would never have happened like it did without Downey, Jr in KK,BB and how he redefined flawed, eclectic heroes for us.

The coolest part? Downey Jr’s returned the favour in a BIG way by recommending Shane Black as director for IRON MAN 3. And from the trailer, it looks epic. Talk about friends helping each other out.

Shining moment: the opening monologue. Ingenius.

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15.

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Tom Cruise – Vincent, Collateral (2004)

 

Tom Cruise alongside Will Smith is arguably the biggest superstar of the past 20 years. One just needs to take a look at Cruise’s hits through these years: JERRY MAQUIRE, the 4 MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE flicks, MINORITY REPORT, VALKYRIE, INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE, VANILLA SKY, WAR OF THE WORLDS, etc, and then smaller fare like the masterpiece that is MAGNOLIA. But in the mid-00’s Cruise was ‘losing it’. He was seen as a relic of the past (when star-driven hits were bigger than effects-driven films), and he was losing relevance for essentially playing the same guy over and over again (whether in dramas or action movies).

 

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Then, in 2004, Michael Mann – ye manly man’s director of HEAT, LAST OF THE MOHICANS, THE INSIDER, et al – made an intense, captivating thriller titled COLLATERAL. The film told the simple story of a taxi driver getting stuck with a hitman in his cab. But what made this film to be considered one of the year’s best thrillers were the sublime performances and chemistry between Jamie Foxx as the cabbie and especially Cruise as the hitman. How many times have we seen Cruise as a calm and collected bad guy, in a suit, stubble, with silver hair? Cruise proved once and for all he still had it, and thanks to the push provided by COLLATERAL, 8 years down the line he’s top of the pile once again (with JACK REACHER, OBLIVION, and ALL YOU NEED IS KILL all coming out soon).

 

Shining Moment: shoot out in a nightclub, with Oakenfold playing in the background. Classy.

 

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14.

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Adam Sandler – Barry Egan, Punch Drunk Love (2002)

I hate Adam Sandler. With a vengeance. I think there is not one single movie, not a single joke, that he has ever – EVER – made in any of his movies which has made me even smirk. He’s unfunny, uncool, unoriginal, one-note, and plain annoying. Always will be. But…then we have the genius that is Paul Thomas Anderson.

The auteur behind such classics as BOOGIE NIGHTS, MAGNOLIA, and later on THERE WILL BE BLOOD was one man who knew how to channel Adam Sandler’s idiotic charm into the performance of a lifetime, in a movie so warm, so sweet, so funny and so un-Adam Sandler-like that it floored almost everyone. This delightful, odd indie was the first movie to garner critical acclaim for Sandler while continuing to prove what acting powerhouses Emily Watson (as the just-as-eccentric love interest) and Phillip Seymour Hoffman (a PTA regular, and having a ball as the villain here) are. But enough about the movie. The reason Sandler shone here was although he wasn’t strictly playing ‘against type’, but he made Barry into a lovable mess, an awkward, shy man-child on the verge of a nervous breakdown. You couldn’t not fall in love with and root for Barry, and having me type that for Sandler makes this one of my favourite performance ever.

 

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Shining Moment: reunion with his sweetheart over Shelley Duvall’s “He needs me”.

 

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13.

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Daniel Day Lewis – Daniel Plainview, There Will Be Blood (2007)

 

That’s the talent of Paul Thomas Anderson: two back-to-back performances from his movies. In any case, probably the easiest entry to write. Daniel Day-Lewis is arguably the best actor since the 80’s, and some would argue (I would too) ever. He won an Oscar with MY LEFT FOOT, he proved to be quite the angry young man in IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER, he made LAST OF THE MOHICANS unforgettable, and he was the only shining star in the glorified yawnfest that was GANGS OF NEW YORK.

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And he is the ONLY actor who could play an oil pioneer discovering wealth and corrupting power in the 1900’s this compelling and interesting. Seriously. If you think about what this film was about, the story in its 2 ½ hour length without much action or chutzpah, you’ll realize how big a draw Day-Lewis as an actor is. We would probably watch him brushing and flossing his teeth for an hour if someone were to put that on film. Or him sleeping. That’s just creepy. But he is that good. The snarl. The twinkle in the eye. The angry voice. The face-off with the yin to his yang, the teenage preacher (Paul Dano) towards the end of the film. Master of his craft, really. Can’t wait to see him as LINCOLN once it comes out on video, and, in all likelihood, a third Oscar for Mr DDL.

 

Shining Moment: the last scene at the bowling alley.

 

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12.

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George Clooney – Jack Foley, Out of Sight (1998)

George Clooney arguably is one of the finest and most-respected leading men in Hollywood right now, and it seems like he’s been around since the 1980’s like Tom Cruise or Mel Gibson. However, if you think hard, you’ll realize there were no big George Clooney movies before the late 90’s (remember the time all he was known for was BATMAN & ROBIN?). He is one of the very few actors who make it big not when they’re close to 30 but to 40, and the reason he remains so likable is because he realized his charm and picked the best possible projects. But for me Clooney’s star-making turn and best performance (alongside SYRIANA, a supporting role) was in 1998’s OUT OF SIGHT, a witty romantic crime thriller. With this, Stephen Soderbergh prove he wasn’t just an indie director but a filmmaker who could deftly mix a big budget with comedy and crime – exactly why Clooney and Soderbergh went on to make the OCEAN trilogy together.

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Based on Elmore Leonard’s novel about a small-time thief and his dangerous cat-and-mouse flirtation with a police officer (Jennifer Lopez, better than ever before, and before she was J-Lo), the movie had a great ensemble cast and leads with sizzling chemistry. Clooney charmed his way through the movie and into not just women’s hearts, but also proved to men why we still needed heroes with class and wit ala Cary Grant. His trademark sharpened-eyes, half-smile, head-tilt, and slow talk has now made him an A-lister and an Oscar winner. Watch this underrated classic with your better half now for a great time at the movies (and lots of eye candy).

Note to self – watch THE DESCENDANTS.

Shining Moment: wooing Jennifer Lopez while locked up with her. In her stolen car trunk.

 

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11.

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Edward Norton – Derek Vinyard, American History X

Ed Norton was on fire in the late 90’s. He was my favourite actor at the time (closely followed by the “Face/Off” era Nic Cage) and boy, there seemed to be no turning back for him. He debuted with PRIMAL FEAR, overshadowing Richard Gere completely and receiving best supporting actor nomination in the process. The same year, he worked with Woody Allen on EVERYONE SAYS I LOVE YOU (a unique, sweet musical ensemble – check it out) as well as PEOPLE VS LARRY FLYNT (an underrated courtroom drama cum biopic with a great performance by Woody Harrelson).  Then in 1998, he appeared in the poker film ROUNDERS (with Matt Damon and John Malkovich), and this little indie flick by first-time director Tony Kaye. When AHX came out, there was no one more on fire than Norton. Think Fassbender or Gosling today.

Going completely against his role as skinny, earnest and clean-cut boys, Norton packed an explosive punch literally and figuratively by piling on the muscle and becoming a skinhead who has a change of heart. Norton made Derek into a hulking, fascist beast at first, and then made us go through his spiritual journey as he becomes a completely different man by the end of it all. The film, just like Norton, was raw, thought provoking, and unforgettable.

 

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Shining Moment: realization that everything must come full circle.

 

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And… coming next week…The Top Ten. Would love to hear about your favourite lead performances from the past 20 years as well. See you cinephiles then!

SHORT N’ SWEET MOVIES REVIEWS – BARFI!, TAKEN2, DREDD 3D

Time for some quick film reviews. Been a while and I have time to kill at work.

The shorter and sweeter reviews first:

 

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TAKEN 2

 

DAMNNNNN. I missed this movie this weekend but my buddies didn’t. I was being a lame purist who ‘wanted to watch the first one again and then watch this one’. In any case, Xin’s review:

“TAKEN 2 is good fun. But unnecassary at best”.

So there you have it.

 

 

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 DREDD 3D

 

What a suprising FUN ride! Hollywood decides to re-do JUDGE DREDD (ye of 1980’s British comic of futuristic lawmen who are judge, jury, and executioner) after the mess that was Sly Stallone‘s JUDGE DREDD (1995).

This time they get it PERFECTLY right: it’s bloody, it’s grungy, it’s hardcore, and it’s downright badass. Karl Urban finally gets to shine in the lead (although ironically his goodlookin’ mug is never shown without the massive helmet) and the movie is balls-to-the-walls fights from minute one to 90. Short and sweet, bloody and fun, and the 3D is used very creatively (and trippily). Using the “slow mo” drug and showing its effects makes for one good visual gimmick, and having druglords, techies, corrupt judges, and lots of guns makes for a roaring good time.

Oh yeah. The ‘trapped in a tall building and having the boss at the top’ concept is completely lifted from the epic Indonesian action movie (watch it if you haven’t right now, now!) THE RAID: REDEMPTION, but no worries. They’ve made it different enough to be not a ripoff and be fun in its own twisted way.

For fans of grungy action (films of Liam Neeson, THE RAID, 80’s actioners, etc), give it a try. With the boys, not your Girl ideally. 

 

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BARFI!

 

So BARFI! is this year’s big, breakout Bollywood hit, right? Every year has one standout blockbuster which everyone HAS to watch on the big screen and which has amazing viral word-of-mouth. This is usually a film with a) mass audience appeal, b) a likable, memorable cast especially the leads, and c) a feel-good vibe and a ‘classic’ feel to it. So yes, BARFI! is the same kind of superhit that DABANGG, THREE IDIOTS, SINGH IS KINGG, DOSTANA, and especially BLACK were in the past decade.

THE GOOD: the movie itself is actually QUITE good; great, heartfelt performances from two stars and a newcomer; overall quirky, artsy direction; hummable, cutesy music throughout which is a throwback to the music of the 50’s and 60’s; and a story which at the same time is a personal, ‘small story’ and a decades-spanning emotional saga too. 

This is meant to be Ranbir Kapoor‘s movie through and through, from the name to the songs to the intention of creating a character which would go down in Bollywood’s history as an infectiously likable hero just like Sharukh Khan‘s Raj or Aamir Khan‘s Rancho. Ranbir succeeds in emoting without dialogue thanks to amazing facial expressions and even better comedic timing but in all honesty I think it is when Priyanka Chopra is onscreen as Jhilmil that your eyes are truly tranfixed. She steals the show thanks to her nuanced, understated performance as an autistic, confused woman-child who happens to fall for and our win Barfi over. The third wheel so to speak that completes BARFI is the newcomer Ileana D’Souza who is our main narrator and through whose ‘normal’ eyes we get to experience the whole film. My acting highlight though is also seeing the great character actor Saurabh Shukla in the integral role of the exhausted, hapless constable who has been running after Barfi for literally decades (and hence being the butt of various hilarious and Chaplin-inspired cat and mouse escapades). It’s always great to see such ‘real’ actors shine and become the backbone of Indian movies so often overflowing with beautiful, unreal actors. His work (with some hair when he’s younger and a driven officer) and later as the now much older, still-smoking haggard man narrating the story alongside others both prove once again how good he is.

Anurag Basu has succeeded in making a film which does need any filth or risque scenes to succeed, which is a great throwback to earlier, wholesome movies in which romance and attraction never meant steamy songs or gyrating in the rain. The film has various standout sequences and locations which immediately establish it as a movie which will make it BIG in India, and connect with many, many people. from the sweet lady-and-the-tramp chemistry between Barfi and the girl he’s trying to woo, to his later interaction and falling in love with Jhilmil, to the smaller moments between Barfi and his aging driver dad, the film is littered with moments which you know will be remembered by people while making them smile. The mixing, zigzagging of timelines (the Now, 1972, and 1978) and the surreal hillstation location of Darjeeling also signifcantly adds to the intrigue and dreamlike appeal of the film. The acting, direction and music in fact comes together too perfectly – just like something which was ‘tweaked’ to be perfect.

Which is exactly where the problem with the film lies.

 

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THE BAD:

BARFI! is an outstanding achievement no doubt for Indian cimena in terms of acting, direction, camera work, and music. But…it is a manafactured film. It is not art-for-the-sake-of-art; it is a film made in ‘gora style’ filmmaking (the cutesy moments, the quirky-Amelie-esque characters, the score and how it is used to enhance emotions). this is a film which has the perfect ingredients coming together and all of which have been taken from other successful classics: you get a hotshot director and cast, you put in a ‘special person on an adventure’ story (BLACK, the amazing TAARAY ZAMEEN PAR, the absolute pile of crap that was PAA), you then make it all run in flashback with everyone reminiscing about how the protagonist touched their lives and how pure and simple he was (THREE IDIOTS, AMELIE), you have an underdog in love with rich girl and finding another girl like him story (Chaplin’s CITY LIGHTS and THE TRAMP), you have slapstick comedy of cops-and-robber with various hijinks involved (again CHAPLIN), and…you have various almost silent sequences which are meant to evoke awe and make you think “wow…how artsy and how Oscar-caliber” (last year’s best picture winner, THE ARTIST).

So…BARFI! is by no means a bad film. It is just not as novel as some might make it to be, and it owes most of its charm and success to THREE IDIOTS, THE ARTIST, and most importantly vairous Charlie Chaplin films and it was made with the Oscars in mind. And for financial success, we the people of the subcontinent are suckers for ‘special people’ feelgood stories anyhow, so there’s that.

Original? No. Memorable? Yes. Ranbir and Priyanka’s chemistry from ANJAANA ANANI comes out sparkling again and they and especially the director Anurag Basu are in for a glut of awards this season. India is due for an Oscar very soon given how lucrative and influential Bollywood has gotten in the past decade and how even more important it is going to be in shaping the face of cinema in the future. It has a very good shot at being nominated for Best Foreign Film and gives the Academy a great excuse to ‘award India’ as well. The only thing in its way is how inspired it is and how much of what it is, it owes to past films; but the Academy voters may not care much and give the Golden Man to it. Either way, win-win for Team Basu.

Oh, and another big flaw? Mannnn is it long. Long, long, long. Should have been 20-30 minutes shorter. But I guess that’s Indian movies (and self-indulgent directors) for ya.

 

See you all at the movies!

 

Bond’s back, but so is Ron Burgundy!


 

Ah. The internet.

Bringing fanboys joy every day.

So recently we just FINALLY got a teaser poster and now a teaser trailer for the next Bond. And boy, does it tease and tease well!

The next entry which I can’t wait for is Skyfall, and stars my favouritest Bond ever, Daniel Craig after a 4 year hiatus returning alongside a stellar cast including Dame Judi Dench, two hotties whose name I don’t remember, and – hold your breath – Ralph Fiennes and Javier Bardem as the baddie. But this ain’t all folks….this is the massive OMG: it’s directed by Mr ex-Kate Winslet aka director of ‘American Beauty‘ Sam Mendez, and he’s going to make this a Bond film to remember.

Enough blabbering. Check it out. Oh, and it’s followed by a trailer for the new Bond game coming out this year too. This and the Hobbit ensure that winter 2012 is going to be just as exciting as the summers when we talk film.

 

 

 

But this ain’t all folks. There’s another teaser out this week – no TWO teasers for the same flick – and they’re as good as an overtly sexual neck massage. (Normal people will not get this reference. Burgundy fans – mostly socially inept overweight individuals who love order-ins – will get it).

But by Odin’s beard, the teasers for the next Anchorman are out, and they ask you….did YOU miss Ron Burgundy‘s hot breath in your ear?

 

 

I sure did. Oh, and the whole gang’s back. Great to see Steve Carell still coming back for the role which made him a star 8 years ago.

 

 

 

Anchorman 2 was announced last month by Ron Burgundy himself on Conan O’Brien and fans of the Channel 4 News Team around the world jumped in their seats and grinned endlessly as this dream sequel was finally happening after 8 years, and with full involvement by all those who made it such a classic. That announcement video is also provided below for those who missed Ron on live tv playing a flute (after the second teaser below).

 

Oh, here’s the 2nd teaser:

 

 

 

The REALLY cool thing is…these are improvised. Not scripted per se. Just the gang getting together and doing their thang. That’s what made the first movie such a cult classic, and one of my all-time favourite comedy films (alongside Airplane! and the Kevin Smith viewaskew universe of course).

And finally, here’s Ron Burgundy making the surprise appearance and announcement on Conan:

 

 

“Marvel’s The Avengers” review: One of the first one’s you’ll get, so take it!

 

 

I have experienced the Avengers. Australia officially had the first opening anywhere in the world, and so I HAD to go the midnight screening last night. I was giddy all day, and then finally it was 12 and it was Avenging Time. Knowing that only a handful of people in the world had seen it so far and I was one of the first lucky few just made it that much more special. No Rotten Tomatoes, no Word of Mouth, no massive box office stories. Just a movie I’d been waiting 15 years for, and a chance to see it at midnight.

Ahhh…The Avengers. I’ve been bursting at the seams with excitement since I saw it and can’t wait to share the joy as right now the word isn’t out, but in 2 weeks…EVERYONE and their grandma will be gushing over it. The Avengers is a winner through and through, a tremendous entertainer for everyone, and an ecstatic geekasm of a thrill ride for fans everywhere. Anyone and everyone who doesn’t know the Marvelverse will leave the theatre smirking at the awesome action flick they just saw, while long-time fans will be drooling throughout at how well and how faithfully Joss Whedon has portrayed their heroes  together on the big screen. This is a film with HEART, and I expect it to have the biggest opening of all time, gross north of 400 million at the US Box Office and 800 million internationally, AND get at least an 80% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

So, as I can’t wait to share the love, here’s a spoiler-free review to get you up to speed and amped up for this milestone of a film. Please note that this is NOT an analysis of the story or the direction per se, so there are no spoilers or anything that can take away from your experience of the film. This is just a love letter from a lifetime fan to the Marvelverse for making this happen, and all this is supposed to do is get you amped about what you will witness in a few weeks. So DO READ you pricks.

 

Background: The Avengers

The Avengers were created in 1963, and here’s the cover for their first comicbook:

 

They have seen a lot since that first fight with Loki. Dozens of new members joining and leaving, epic spacefaring battles and small, personal ones as well, death, and yes, avenging. The Avengers have always fascinated me and since forever, they have been my favourite superhero team (hmm…alongside the TMNT). Yes, I love the X-Men, Fantastic Four, even X-Force, and of course….the JLA or Justice League of America for the uninitiated. But the Avengers are top of the list for 3 reasons: a) they are not a League or a Group per se but a Team that comes together when required to whoop ass and b) they are scrappers. They lack the polish, the finesse, the class of the JLA, but man do they know how to put up a good fight.  3) They’re a lot of fun. You mix an out-of-time “gee wiz” supersoldier, a Norse demigod who speaks Shakespearean, a pompous billionaire genius with a fully-loaded tank of a suit, various interesting superheroes like Hawkeye, Vision, The Wasp, Antman, Wonder Man, Black Widow, and then, they have….the Hulk. You can’t really top that combination of superheroes. And no disrespect to the Justice League: they are an elite group who can dispose of any threat and handle any catastrophy and they have Batman – but the Avengers are….warmer.

 

Why the Film works:

 

I will bet you ten bucks right now: The Avengers is going to become your favourite superhero movie of all time, probably tied with or topped by TDK, but only because of the Joker. But this is definitely the best ‘team’ film to come out since….I don’t remember when. X-2 maybe. But nothing on this scale. This is one of the best superhero films ever, and the Next Big Thing for comicbook movies since a certain unstoppable force garbed in a torn purple suit clashed with a batty-eared immovable object four summers ago.

What makes a great film? The Avengers works on so many levels it’s insane. One viewing just doesn’t do it justice – take into account the talent on screen, the characters, story, the action, the run time, and one cannot possibly get enough of the Avengers in one go.

The Cast – anyone who’s reading this already knows. No need to go through it again. You’ve seen the previous films. And new additions? Jeremy “MI: Ghost Protocol” Renner as Hawkeye, Colbie “Robin” Smulders as Agent Maria Hill, and most importantly, Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk (replacing Ed Norton which I think was a blessing in disguise…more on this later).

The Style – Marvel made the intentional and very well-thought move of differentiating its superhero films by style; the heroes all existed in the same universe, but had their own world to inhabit.

 

 

The Iron Man films had a very fun, techno, edgy, humorous bite and the action was more in line with, let’s say, James Bond or Mission Impossible. Tony Stark was your wisecracking, ne’er-do-well hero who had the brains and the technology.  Robert Downey Jr took the character and gave it such life that his Iron Man became a 21st century hero who everyone loved and who everyone wanted more of. Iron Man in May 2008 set the standard for Marvel films and expectations were high.

 

 

The Hulk films were the moodiest, darkest in tone and style, with Bruce Banner being an anti-hero cursed with his alter ego, and most clashes were not meant to be heroic or selfless, but the Hulk escaping capture or levelling out another threat. More Fugitive, King Kong and the Bourne films here. I personally am a fan of Eric Bana’s Hulk, and Ed Norton as Bruce just seemed off. Now with a new face – Mark Ruffalo – on board, fans didn’t  truly know what to expect but the fact that Ruffalo is a great actor and the fact that he looked like the comicbook Banner were very good signs. Also, Ruffalo would bring more pathos and highlight the ‘genius scientist’ angle instead of Norton’s angry portrayal. And for the first time ever, the Hulk was going to be motion-captured instead of purely CGI, so there would be a direct connection between Banner and the Hulk and we would be able to see the person inside of the Hulk. For me personally, this was a sigh of relief as a CGI Hulk followed by a human Banner with no physical similarity in the earlier films didn’t sell us at all on the Banner / Hulk being the same person.

 

 

Thor was operatic, grand, classy, a fish-out-of-water tale of humility and finding yourself, and with the two contrasts of a majestic Asgard versus the shanty smalltown in Texas where he crashes on Earth. Thor was an arrogant man-child gifted with immense power who had to earn his hero-hood and grow up in the process. Clash of the Titans, Princess Bride and Shakespeare comes to mind. Chris Hemsworth – a relatively unknown Aussie actor – was cast as Thor and he proved to be perfect for it. Handsome, tall, well-built, young, regal in his tone and stature, and yet lovable and doofus-like.

 

 

Captain America was the toughest one to execute: if it were to be too trigger-happy or too pro-war, it would put off international fans and come off as too pro-US and jingoistic. Making it too serious and edgy would weaken the character of Cap and wouldn’t be fair to his comic roots. So Marvel made it the best way it should have: a pulpy, fun, hearty story set in the 1940’s which could best capture Steve Rogers’ innocence, naivette, and intention to fight the good and just fight. The Captain was a man of honour, not a man of war, who had principles and became a hero not because of the supersoldier formula, but his beliefs. The tone was very Indiana Jones and old-fashioned heroism was at the center throughout. Although Chris Evans had already played Jonny Storm in Marvel’s two Fantastic Four films, fans and the studio were quite excited to see what Evans would bring to the table, as he is generally a well-liked guy who seems ‘one of the boys’ and looks the part. Then he buffed up, grew his hair, and became the nicest, most upstanding guy this side of Midgard and the final piece of the Avengers puzzle had been revealed.

So for the Avengers, Marvel had to be sure they took something which would bring all the characters and their worlds together without desecrating anyone of them. This had to be a world in which all these world could and did co-exist, while maintaining the pre-set personalities and quirks of each of the characters. They got onboard Joss Whedon as director, who although does not have a great filmography, but put heart into whatever he has made and fans had faith in him. Rightfully so, Whedon took what all the heroes had – Stark, Rogers, Banner, Thor – and put that at the center of the film. Heart, and heroism. Working on what defines a hero makes us appreciate all the characters individually, while when they come together, it works like magic. Hence the tone is EPIC, full of mini-worlds of all these characters, and making us believe that this is truly how they would react and communicate when brought together.

 

 

So Epic Tone, Epic Cast and Crew, and being true to the characters: Check.

The Heroism – this is a film of heroes who aren’t aggressive or war-wagers. They are warriors by nature in whatever threat they face. This is a film about believing in a time of non-believing. It accepts us as we are in the post-9/11 world: cynical, edgy, non-believing, and scattered. And then it tells us how “old-fashioned could really do us good right now”. It’s about heroes of old: of people doing heroic feats, and putting everything on the line for each other and for others.  In a post-9/11 era, this film could very easily come off as Bullies (The US) who have immense power proving that might is right and ‘you’re either with us, or against us’. Instead, what Whedon surprisingly and wonderfully does is show that none of these people want war. Captain America looks down upon WWII for the destruction it caused, and was disappointed to learn from Fury that 2 more wars had been waged. Fury, Director of SHIELD which isn’t American but an international peacekeeping organization, termed both wars wrong and failures, hinting at both ‘Nam and Afghanistan as unneeded and unjust. Stark mentions having quit making weapons. Banner has been living in India for a year as a doctor trying to only heal, and not do more damage or get into confrontations. And all of them collectively and vocally are against weaponizing the Cosmic Cube’s power, giving them humanity and a much more international appeal.

And let’s not even begin with feats of heroism throughout the film. That would be giving away too much. But you’ll know what I mean when you see it. Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Cap’n, Black Widow, Hawkeye, all get their very own moments of glory and everyone’s entrance is memorable and apt.

So…we have the heroism. Check.

Story and Spectacle – It’s about Good versus Evil. The Avengers don’t fight for the sake of fighting; they “sure as hell avenge the Earth” to paraphrase Tony Stark. They are not gung-ho bloodthirsty types. They fight when they have to, and then they come out guns blazing. The story itself is strong enough to have you engaged, even if you aren’t already fans of the characters. Loki’s entry, reason for going public, master plan, and finally war are all engaging to watch and let us see all the separate members of the eventual team at their worst and their best. Lots of dream fights galore, with “how would a throwdown between the Hulk and Thor go?” or “Cap’s shield versus Thor’s hammer”. You wanted to see it, you WILL see it. And although from the opening we get lots of breathtaking action, the final ‘war’ will make last summer’s TF3 Chicago finale look like kidstuff. The hammer, the shield, the suit, the hulking out, the arrows, the acrobatics, the brains, all come together and give you a synaesthesia to remember. Did I mention Hulking out? Takes the cake.  All in all, the story is what makes us care for the characters – everyone gets to shine and stand on their own, while there’s enough visual spectacle to keep your eyes locked. How can we forget the Captain’s standoff with the alien hordes alone? Or Tony’s Helicarrier saving efforts, or his ‘space’ ride at the end? Or the Hulk’s throwdown with Thor and Mjolnir, and one-punch statement to the giant alien flying creature? Or Thor’s use of the Empire State Building? So many epic moments of awe. And finally, great use of 3D throughout. So Story and Spectacle – check.

Kickass Villains – Loki, the alien race, with hand to hand fighters, large flying larvae things, and flying bikes. AND internal fighting amongst the Avengers. Great stuff.

 

 

 

Humour, Heart – this is what would elevate this film from a good one to a great one, and boy, are there lots of both. You’d be surprised how much of both. There were enough jokes, smirks, put-downs, one-liners, and awkward moments to keep the audience not only wowed, but cracking up every few minutes. The biggest laughs were owned by Tony Stark, Agent Coulson and hands down the Hulk. But this ain’t the Dark Knight….more like Iron Man in terms of mix of humour and heart instead of more philosophical, heavy emotion.

So all in all, this is a thrill ride and then some. If you liked any of Marvel’s early individual offerings, you definitely need to see this as soon as it comes out. It sets a great direction for where Marvelverse is headed, and just like Superman (1978), Batman (1989), X-Men (2000) and The Dark Knight (2008), The Avengers has ushered comicbook fans into a new era of Comicgeeks are Cool, and I can’t wait to watch it again.

 

Oh….and Marvel’s trademark after credits scene is still there, and boy is it BIG!!!!! We know who the Avengers are facing off next time, and it is going to LEGENDARY. After the jump you can find out who it is if you like. And no. It will not at all ruin the film for you. So go on.

 

Potential SPOILER: If you can’t wait to find out, it’s Thanos. Thanos! Thanos! F***ing Thanos, looking awesome in the flesh! This…is….Thanos. And he is powerful. Really, powerful.

 

 

2012 is going to blow you away…more KICKASS trailers!



Ladies and Germs,

2012 is THE year for fans. The Dark Knight Rises. The Avengers. The Amazing Spiderman. The Hobbit.

These films we all know about, and are gushing over…

but these ain’t it…here are more to relish your taste buds!

“The Hobbit: An Expected Journey”

This highly anticipated trailer finally came out today…from producer Peter Jackson and director Guillermo Del Toro…the prequel to the LOTR trilogy, and telling the story of Bilbo Baggins…I don’t think you’re reading this. You’ve seen it already, haven’t you? Ah. Fans. What a lovely bunch.

“The Amazing Spiderman”

For those who missed it, here’s the trailer again. I loved the Raimi trilogy, and don’t think anyone should ever mess with it or make it non-canonical, but I think this one hopefully shouldn’t overlook it or ignore it completely. With that, seeing Spidey in 3D will be a treat.

Wrath of the Titans

The sequel to the lukewarmly received “Clash of the Titans” which I still enjoyed the crap out of (Huffy, bohut maza aya tha na? :D)…

this one is bigger, better, heavier on the action, with more menacing and jaw-dropping villains and action such as the Cyclops and what-not…they’ve taken Greek mythology and gone crazy with it…check it out:

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

I’ll just say it out loud and proud: I love Nic Cage, and I will love all his movies (ranging from classics like Face/Off, Adaptation, Matchstick Men to popcorn gleeful idiocy such as Con Air, Drive Angry, et al)…The first Ghost Rider I watched (in B-48, remember Mr Quettay) and although it was very cookie-cutter, but the action was fun. This one, however, ups the notch in every way and gives a more fun, meatier part to Nic hence making it more exciting for fans. And…The Rider rides, flies, flings, throws, burns, and whatever a biker with a flaming skull for a head can do.

“The Expendables 2” (Teaser)

With a new director (Sly just broods this time around, doesn’t direct).

With Chuck Norris. Van Damme. And more Willis and Arnie. Arnie. Arnie. Arnie! ‘Nuff said.

“GI JOE: Retaliation”

The first one we watched for the sake of nostalgia, and the Snake Eyes / Storm Shadow in it were fun. This one, however, has….The Rock AND Bruce Willis. And lots, and lots, and lots, of action. Enjway.

“The Dictator”

3 words: Sacha Baron Cohen!

Men in Black III

I was skeptical. I didn’t like the 2nd one at all. I thought this was dead and buried. But….good to see Will Smith back, and the trailer looks / feels more like the first film than the second one. And time travel. So…fingers crossed.

“Chronicle”

Just check out the trailer already.

“Battleship”

Based on a board game. Seriously. As inane as the concept seems, the action is right up there with Michael Bay. Well, somewhat close. Explosions, money shots, explosions. Good fun. And love Liam Neeson.

“John Carter of Mars”

Taylor Kitch (from Battleship, which you JUST might have seen)…is he a big future action star? Here’s his other trailer based on the series of books. Don’t know what to say about this…could go either way. Could be a Prince of Persia, or a POTC.

Also, still coming out in 2011…

“The Darkest Hour”

From the director of Wanted, with a very intriguing concept and a cool look. Checks its outs.

More coming soon, so post away your comments! Which are your top 3 films of 2012 (and 2011, for that matter)?

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES TRAILER!

 

DROOL FANS DROOL!

 

Revealed in theaters with Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Warner Bros. Pictures has now posted the new trailer for Christopher Nolan‘s The Dark Knight Risesonline and you can watch it below!

Opening in theaters on July 20, 2012, the Nolan’s highly-anticipated third Batman movie stars Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Juno Temple, Josh Pence, Daniel Sunjata, Nestor Carbonell, Matthew Modine, Tom Conti, Joey King, Brett Cullen, Chris Ellis, Josh Stewart, Christopher Judge, Adam Rodriguez and Rob Brown.

 

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