STORY: The third chapter in the life of Gru (Steve Carell), his adorable wide-eyed little girls and the minions, sees them embarking on a new adventure that involves a dancing villain Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker), Gru’s blonde twin brother Dru (Carell) and a unicorn. Also, having given up his ‘villainy’, will Gru partake in a heist to keep his family tradition alive?
REVIEW: The latest instalment of Illumination’s hit franchise is the ‘Knight and Day’ and ‘Mission: Impossible’ of animation films. It has truckloads of action to keep you entertained and a bit of drama to evoke emotions. Fast-paced and loaded with adventure, this one rarely has a dull moment. On the flip side, you miss the heart-to-heart conversation between Gru and the girls that caught your fancy in the first film.
To sum it up, this one’s an outlandish and overstuffed sequel that has too many things going on all at once. It comprises a heist, Gru’s discovery of his long lost twin brother Dru, bubble gum firing bad guy, minions displaying their singing skills etc. What it lacks emotionally, it tries to make up in the form of constant action sequences. While it’s not easy to make an exciting instalment with the same template, Kyle Balda and Pierre Coffin manage it to a certain extent, thanks to Steve Carell and Kristen Wiig’s fantastic and consistent voice contribution.
Though not as endearing as the first film or funny as the second, Despicable 3 achieves what it sets out to – entertain the kids. Unlike the previous films, this predominantly caters to the younger crowd. It lacks the warmth of the original but if you don’t mind too many Grus, guns, bubblegums and robots, this colourful, cutesy film can be a fun one time watch.
STORY: An authorised biopic of the slain rapper Tupac Shakur leading from the time he got famous until his violent death.
REVIEW: Saints and sinners, both have chinks in their armour. And when an ‘official’ biopic is made on these personalities, filmmakers often tend to deify them in the movie. That’s the case with All Eyez on Me; the official biopic of the slain rapper Tupac Shakur.
The film paints Tupac (Demetrius Shipp Jr) as a saint of the ghetto with the soul of a poet who did nothing wrong. There is no question that Tupac was a genius, justly deified in the rap world because of his music. He fused together firepower delivery, a devil-may-care attitude along with a strong sense of social justice in his songs; something never seen in rap music before. He made around 700 songs and went multi-platinum on album sales before he was shot and murdered at 25. But he wasn’t all saint. It’s cringe-worthy then, when the film tries to portray him as one.
Ambitious in the way it tries to tell the entire life story of Tupac, All Eyez on Me presents a bird’s-eye view of Tupac’s rise to fame and the key moments of his career. But it skips the moments which you want to see the method behind the rapper’s madness. The incident where a six-year-old kid is accidentally shot dead by a gun belonging to Tupac is glossed over. Even the gang connections he had in real life which often landed him in trouble, are not mentioned. The biopic shies away from his rough side that and only focusses on how Tupac was wronged by the society at large, and how his rise to fame, fuelled his demise.
Performance wise, the film is rather weak. Demetrius Shipp Jr only looks like Tupac. There’s none of the craziness of the rapper in him which we’ve seen in Tupac’s interviews and his songs. Another huge disappointment is Jarrett Ellis as Snoop Dog, who lacks the nonchalance we see in the real snoop; he only sounds like him, which is comical. Dominic L. Santana as Suge Knight is more a club bouncer than a sharp record executive. And the entire Biggie vs Tupac rivalry is given very little attention.
Since it’s Tupac, the music being brilliant is a no-brainer. However, unlike biopics on rappers in the past like ‘Straight Outta Compton’ or ‘8 Mile’, viewers who aren’t aware of the legacy of Tupac, won’t quite be able to connect with the film. But for fans of Tupac, it’s just the thrill of seeing something about their rap idol on screen. There are better unofficial documentaries on this subject. For those who believe in the controversy theory that Tupac still lives, this movie proves that he’s not among us anymore. Because if he was, this would have been a much better flick.
STORY: A new breed of racers gives Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) stiff competition on the track. Now one of the oldest race cars, Lightning needs to prove that he is still a top racer with help from an eager young female car named Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo)
REVIEW: Pixar films have redefined the scope of animated movies with pathbreaking stories in the ‘Toy Story’ trilogy, ‘Wall-E’, ‘Inside Out’, ‘The Incredibles’ and ‘Up’, just to name a few. But few of their missteps have been as prominent as the ‘Cars’ franchise. With the novelty of the first entry wearing thin in the sequel, ‘Cars 2’ seemed like a blatant cash grab for the studio. That movie focused on a secondary character – Mater – for no reason, other than to ensure there was enough merchandise for kids to buy in stores.
It took Pixar the third attempt to realize that great animation isn’t enough to make a good picture – you need characters with a heart and soul. Safe to say that Mater was not that character, so Pixar shifts focus back to Lightning McQueen. It’s been over 10 years since ‘Cars’ first came out, so it’s not out of place to see him struggling to be relevant again, and being edged out by newer, faster models. But the journey of trying to find himself while retracing the steps of his mentor Doc Hudson (played by the late, great Paul Newman) is long drawn and filled with uneven moments of drama and humor. This dull and dreary extended middle act will probably be difficult for both kids and adults to sit through, as there’s not much in it for either demographic. Although the story picks up towards the end, with a somewhat unexpected and welcome twist to Lightning McQueen’s tale.
Owen Wilson is cheerful as Lightning McQueen, enough to watch him running around in circles on and off a race track. The rest of the actors voicing these characters are well-suited for the roles, but there’s not much to write home about – which signifies this film, in all. It’s unfortunate for a studio that made bold and definitive films, to take such a safe route in a world of anthropomorphic automobiles. There are several unanswered questions about them, such as how they’ve come into existence, but perhaps it’s best not to expect so much from a series that barely delivers on the promise of being a fun watch, let alone being a thought-provoking franchise. Watch this only if you’re a fan of the first installment.
STORY: Millennia after being denied her fate, a betrayed Egyptian princess is back from the dead to take revenge. Determined to reclaim all that should have been hers, she unleashes terrors beyond human understanding.
REVIEW: Tom Cruise manages to stay fit at the age of 54 because he spends a lot of time running in his action movies. He also endures copious amounts of physical abuse, ranging from getting beaten up to thrown around; all for our viewing pleasure, while he gets a hefty paycheck in return. It’s a fair trade for the most part – these are popcorn blockbusters that are mindless fun, and everyone is reasonably entertained. So it’s hardly a shocker that Cruise ends up going through his tried and tested ‘Mission Impossible’ motions in ‘The Mummy’.
Unfortunately, the entertainment value in this franchise-building reboot is thinly spread, leaving you feeling deprived if not cheated. This is a shoddy stab at merging action, mythology, horror and comedy resulting in conflicting tonality. Even the occasionally surprising, massive set pieces with elements flying at you in 3D, are interspersed between two-dimensional characters who exist merely to cater to movie tropes.
Cruise’s protagonist is his version of a lovable rogue, in the same vein as Indiana Jones, making some seriously questionable decisions throughout the movie. Annabelle Wallis wanders around as the damsel-in-distress in need of constant rescuing. Russell Crowe hams it up as a Nick Fury-ish leader with ambiguous motives spewing campy exposition. There’s even the sidekick (Jack Johnson) whose weary sense of humour brings out eye-rolls, amongst even more exposition. If there’s one character your eyes will be glued to, it’s Sophia Boutella. Adequately mesmerising as Ahmanet a.k.a. the mummy, she transitions from a creepy, violent monster to a seductive goddess with ease, but her impact is reduced by the screen time devoted to convincing us of Cruise and Wallis’ love angle, even though that’s devoid of any chemistry.
There’s enough gruesome eye candy, and in-your-face action to enjoy in ‘The Mummy’ if you ignore the plot holes and frustrating characters. But the first entry in Universal Pictures’ monster franchise comes across as a desperate attempt by the studio to capitalise on Hollywood’s current world-building frenzy. The amount of effort taken to construct the inevitable sequels is staggering. Admittedly, there’s been some intrigue since we saw the heavily photoshopped picture of Cruise, Boutella and Crowe alongside Johnny Depp and Javier Bardem promising a lot more from the ‘Dark Universe’. But in the absence of quality writing, gripping plots and characters to truly care about, perhaps some monsters are best left buried.
STORY: Diana, princess of the Amazons, is raised on a sheltered island paradise and trained to be an unconquerable warrior. When an American pilot crashes on their shores and tells of a massive conflict raging in the outside world, Diana leaves her home, convinced she can stop the threat as she discovers her full powers as ‘Wonder Woman’.
REVIEW: After decades of being lost in Hollywood developmental hell with a number of false starts and a host of A-list actresses slated to play the coveted role, this is the first bona fide, massive budget, female-led superhero movie to hit the big screen. By this definition itself, ‘Wonder Woman’ already had colossal expectations to meet, but with the added pressure of lifting the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) out of the murk of its dreary sub-par films, Gal Gadot had a lot of weight to carry on her shoulders. Fortunately, her first appearance in ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ was well received, especially as Diana Prince a.k.a. Wonder Woman managed to stand her ground alongside two comic book behemoths. She continues to ride the wave in her own solo film, adding some much-needed confidence to the DCEU but more importantly doing justice (pun obviously intended) to the iconic female superhero.
This is largely credited to director Patty Jenkins whose familiarity with constructing strong female characters, as seen in the Oscar-winning ‘Monster’, pays off here. Jenkins’ vision for this film is a blend of an uplifting and humorous outlook that has been sorely lacking in the DCEU till this point, infused with a strong sense of morale. Most importantly, it takes a distinctive stance on feminism – one that doesn’t resort to male bashing to get its point across, as highlighted in the relationship shared by Diana Prince and Steve Trevor, played by the charismatic Chris Pine. Diana is far from the damsel in distress in need of a knight in shining armour to rescue her, and Trevor is well aware of that. As a result, their connection is built out of mutual respect that plays very well on screen. Speaking of which, if there were any lingering questions about Gadot’s ability to embody the Amazon warrior princess, this film certainly erases them all beyond any shadow of a doubt. She is convincing as the naive yet steadfast fish-out-of-water, harking back to Christopher Reeve in the very first Superman film.
But, the movie is hardly perfect – there are flaws in pacing and unevenly written secondary characters that resort to some stereotyping. Weak and shallow villains – the plague of superhero films – also infect ‘Wonder Woman’, and become a particularly sore point in the third act. These issues tend to take you out of the film’s experience and while they don’t negate the positives listed so far, lessen its potential to reach new heights as a great comic book movie. That said – this is undoubtedly the strongest DCEU outing till now, one that will add a new world of (female) fans to the franchise, and for all the right reasons.