Penguins of Madagascar: Cuteness Personified!

This week I got to watch Penguins of Madagascar which is a spin-off of the Madagascar film series, and takes place right after the events of Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted. Produced by Dreamworks and directed by Eric Darnell and Simon J. Smith, this is a cute movie and will definitely entertain the kids this holiday season.
In Antarctica, three young penguins, Skipper (Tom McGrath), Kowalski (Chris Miller), and Rico (Conrad Vernon), rescue an egg from hungry leopard seals and set themselves adrift on an iceberg. From the egg hatches Private (Christopher Knights) and the four become a team. A decade later, directly after the events of Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted, the Penguins depart from the circus and celebrate Private’s birthday by breaking into Fort Knox so that Private can buy Cheesy Dibbles, a discontinued product, from their break room vending machine. However, Private begins to feel unimportant to the team. While Skipper is the leader and strategist, Kowalski is the brains, and Rico the arsenal specialist, Private is continually referred to as just being a cute face and doesn’t have any remarkable skills.

The Penguins are suddenly kidnapped in the vending machine and flown to a submarine base in Venice. There, the Penguins meet Dave (John Malkovich), a villainous octopus who disguises himself under the human alias of Dr. Octavius Brine. Dave used to be adored in the Central Park Zoo, until the penguins arrived and unknowingly stole his shine. The octopus was then shipped to other zoos but his fame was stolen each time by a penguin shine. Embittered, Dave now wants revenge on the penguins. Does Dave succeed in his plan to take revenge on the penguins or does the four friend foil his plans is something that needs to be seen on the screen.

The movie starts slowly but thirty minutes through the story it gathers speed and soon you are engrossed in the adventures of the four friends on the mission to save the entire penguin population in the world. Direction by Darnell and Smith is wonderful and the screenplay is quite crisp and engrossing. The movie on the whole will appeal to the children and the message given in the movie about not judging others based on their appearance will definetly strike a chord with the audience.

Overall a nice movie for the holidays!

My Verdict: ****
Poor – *, Average – **, Good – ***, Very Good – ****, Excellent – ***** 

The Interview – Too Much Hype, Delivers Nothing!

The Interview starring Seth Rogan and James Franco is the subject of my review this week. Directed by Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg after the disappointing ‘This Is  The End” attracted a lot of hype and negative publicity when in June 2014 the North Korean government threatened of “merciless” action against the USA if the movie was released. The movie also got a lot of attention when a terrorist body the Guardians of Peace threatened terrorist attacks against every cinemas that played The Interview forcing the makers to release the movie online instead of theaters. However I felt the hype and all the negative publicity was for nothing after watching this mindless and souless comedy.
Dave Skylark (James Franco) and his producer Aaron Rapoport (Seth Rogen) run the popular celebrity tabloid TV show “Skylark Tonight.” When they discover that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un (Randall Park) is a fan of the show, they land an interview with him in an attempt to legitimize themselves as journalists. As Dave and Aaron prepare to travel to Pyongyang, their plans change when the CIA recruits them, perhaps the two least-qualified men imaginable, to assassinate Kim Jong-un.

The story and screenplay by Seth Rogan, Dan Sterling and Evan Goldberg travel on a thin plot which does not make any sense. The dialogues are crassy and the performances are bad. James Franco throughout the movie has a constipated look and expression, and tries hard not to irritate the audience. Seth Rogen tries hard to act but with no success. A bunch of Chinese looking actors do not add much value to the plot. Randall Park seems to impress a little with his dictator act.

On the whole the entire movie is just a waste of time.

My Verdict: *
Poor – *, Average – **, Good – ***, Very Good – ****, Excellent – ***** 

PK Is Not A ‘Bhaste’ Of Time! Watch It :)

 Rajkumar Hirani films are always celebrated equally by masses and classes as the movies come with a heart and connects with the audience’s hearts. This week the long in the making and the most anticipated movie of the year, with a quirky name and most popular star of the generation – PK released. Like all Raju Hirani movies PK also tackles an issue and this time it is God & Godmen – Rings a Bell? Yes but No! Although the plot has a striking resemblance to Akshay Kumar – Paresh Rawal starrer Oh My God! but it is different.

PK (Aamir Khan) is an alien who comes to Earth to study its beings. His first encounter with humans force him to stay on Earth forever until he finds the remote that gets stolen and is the only key for him to return back to his world.

In the process of his journey in getting his remote back he asks several questions and affects several people’s lives, and one among them happens to be Jaggu aka Jagat Janani (Anushka Sharma) and another Bhairon Singh (Sanjay Dutt). The movie is a beautiful piece of art and as I said earlier has its heart in the right place. It questions our believes in God and Godmen and makes us laugh at our own tomfoolery that we have been practicing and following for generations.

Aamir Khan is wonderful as PK and I could not see any other actor doing it better than what Aamir has done. Anushka as usual is confident and powerful in her role as Jagat Janani. Sushant Singh Rajput in an extended cameo has done a wonderful job. Supporting cast including Saurabh Shukla and Boman Irani has done a good job however I felt Boman was quite under utilized compared to his roles in Hirani’s previous movies.

Story, Screenplay and Dialogues by Raju Hirani – Abhijat Joshi combination is quite powerful. The dialogues are hilarious, the scenes are funny and during the entire run time you never feel bored or distracted. However I felt that few scenes were rushed through like the Sushant-Anushka love track and Aamir’s sudden romantic feelings for Anushka which although necessary for the plot was like a hurried and sudden thing. Rest I did not find much flaws in the movie.

The songs by Shantanu Moitra, Ankit Tiwari and Ajay-Atul are simple and hummable like all previous Raju Hirani movies. In songs ‘Love is a Bhaste of Time’, ‘Char Kadam’, ‘Nanga Punga Dost’ and ‘Tharki Chokro’ stand out. Editing by Raju Hirani is quite crisp and the cinematography by C.K. Muralidharan is quite enigmatic especially the Brugges part which makes you feel as if you are being treated to a fairytale setting.

Overall the movie is quite entertaining and everyone should definitely watch it at least once and I guarantee you that you will not regret the decision.

My Verdict: ****
Poor – *, Average – **, Good – ***, Very Good – ****, Excellent – *****

Gone Girl: A Nice Thriller!

 After a long time I saw a wonderful thriller – Gone Girl, directed by David Fincher starring Ben Affleck & Rosalind Pike. The hype around the movie before it’s release about the nude scenes and love making scenes does not justify when you see the entire movie as the movie so engrossing these scenes seem to be a necessary part to build up the plot.

Based on the novel written by Gillian Flynn of the same name, explores the relationship between Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) and his wife Amy (Rosalind Pike) after she goes missing on the day of their fifth anniversary. All fingers point towards Nick after cops discover a half burnt diary written by Amy. Flashbacks reveal the tumultous relationship shared by the couple, Nick’s adulturous affair with his student and Amy’s psychotic side revealed through her past two relationships before meeting Nick. Has Amy really run away or was she murdered by Nick is the mystery that one has to see to discover.

Performance wise both Ben and Rosalind are top notch. Few scenes gives rise to goosebumps and the entire narrative is quite gripping leaving no room for any guess work until the interval after which the real story from Amy’s side starts.

Director David Fincher has done a wonderful job and the movie has definitely done justice to the novel which one of the rarest things ever. The screenplay by Gillian Flynn is good and so is the editing and other technical departments of the movie.

Overall, I would suggest everyone to watch this interesting thriller of a movie at least once.

My Verdict: ****
Poor – *, Average – **, Good – ***, Very Good – ****, Excellent – *****

Action Jackson: Old Wine In New Bottle!

This week we have one more big budget no-brainer – Action Jackson (don’t know when will people stop making such movies) directed by Prabhudheva starring Ajay Devgan in one of his most disappointing avtars along with Sonakshi Sinha, Yami Gautam and Manasvi Mamgai.

The movie tells the story (if it has one) of Vishy (Ajay Devgan) who is a happy go lucky tapori who is stalked by Khushi (Sonakshi) as he proves to be lucky for her and a bunch of gangmen. Towards the interval the mystery of the stalking gangmen is revealed when AJ (Ajay Devgan) a gangster who is also a look alike of Vishy is introduced.

AJ tells Vishy and his friend (Kunaal Roy Kapur) that the gangmen have mistaken Vishy to be him and therefore following him to kill him. On being asked the reason, AJ reveals that mafia kingpin Xavier (Anand Raj) wants him, his wife (Yami Gautam) and their new born baby dead after he refused to get married to his obsessive sister Marina (Manasvi Mamgai). AJ tells Vishy he has a plan to get rid of Xavier and Marina for which he needs his help. Then what happens is the movie all about.

Ajay Devgan has been wasted in a double role. Sonakshi has nothing new to offer. Yami Gautam is pleasant to the eyes and newcomer Manasvi seriously needs some lessons in acting. There is nothing new in the story and the screenplay dwells on a paperthin plot. The dialogues are average and sounds repeatitive after watching Wanted, Rowdy Rathore, R…Rajkumar etc which are all Prabhudheva’s past attempts in movie making.

The songs by Himesh Reshammiya are average and does not help take the story ahead. Cinematography is good. Editing could have been crisper. On the whole the movie might appeal to die-hard Ajay Devgan and Prabhudheva fans, otherwise it is a pure dampner.

My Verdict: *
Poor – *, Average – **, Good – ***, Very Good – ****, Excellent – *****

Magic In The Moonlight – Leaves You With No Magic!

Woody Allen movies have always been celebrated for their stories and characters that are quirky and out of this world. Coming after last year’s celebrated ‘Blue Jasmine‘ starring Cate Blanchette, I must say, Magic In The Moonlight do not cast any magic on its viewers. I am not saying it is a bad movie however it is not up to the standards of a Woody Allen movie we always expect. Maybe we can say it is not one of his best.

Magic In The Moonlight tells the story of a Chinese conjuror Wei Ling Soo who is the most celebrated magician of his age however far from his stage persona in actual life his true identity is of Stanley Crawford (Colin Firth), a grouchy and arrogant Englishman with a sky-high opinion of himself and an aversion to phony spiritualists’ claims.

One day his childhood friend and fellow magician Howard Burkan (Simon McBurney), comes to him with the proposal of pulling the mask off a spiritualist who claims to have contact with the deceased through soul connection. Initially uninterested, Stanley goes on the mission to the Côte d’Azur mansion of the Catledge family after being persuaded by Howard.

In the mansion lives Grace (Jacki Weaver) lives with her son Brice (Hamish Linklater) and daughter Caroline (Erica Leerhsen) Grace who wants to make connection with her dead husband’s soul to get answers to some of her unanswered questions invites Sophie Baker (Emma Stone) a young clairvoyant  to the mansion. Sophie arrives with her mother (Marcia Gay Harden) and soon gets engaged to Brice who is besotted with the young and beautiful clairvoyant. In comes Stanley to uncover Sophie and presents himself as a businessman named Stanley Taplinger. Soon Stanley’s belief in spiritualism is tested and what follows is a series of events that are magical in every sense of the word and send the characters reeling. 

The story is not great shakes but it is still a one time watch. Allen has extracted some wonderful performances from Emma and the scenes where she gets into a trance while scanning information about a person is quite brilliantly and comically executed. Colin Firth in comparison is average and his character seems to lack wit and makes him look confused on the screen. Like Allen even Firth had a bad day with this movie.

The cinematography is top notch like any Allen movie and the locales of France has been captured in a picture postcard way. The background music is quite soothing and editing is also crisp. The mastery of Allen can be seen in every frame alas I could say the same with the story. 

Overall its a one time watch however hardcore Allen fans will be slightly disappointed.

My Verdict: **
Poor – *, Average – **, Good – ***, Very Good – ****, Excellent – *****


Still Alice – A Heartwarming Movie Experience!

I had the opportunity to see one of the finest movies this year – Still Alice starring the multi-talented Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin and Kristen Stewart. Co-directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, Still Alice is a movie based on Lisa Genova’s 2007 bestselling novel of the same name.

Dr. Alice Howland (Julianne Moore) is a linguistic teacher in Columbia University who is detected of early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Alec Baldwin plays the role of her husband John Howland while Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth, and Hunter Parrish play her children Lydia, Anna, and Tom.

The movie showcases how a brilliant person like Alice slowly gets sucked into the whirlpool of the disease and how her family patiently copes with her. It is a heartwrenching story that showcases Alice’s struggles to manage her life while dealing with the illness and her job, marriage and children.

Alzheimer’s disease is a very bad condition for any human being as slowly and steadily the memories are erased out of your mind and when you see a family member or a dear one suffering with it, it is quite heartbreaking. What one needs is to give that love, care and most importantly acknowledging their identity which they would have lost in their mind but not to the world.

Directors Richard and Wash does a fantastic job by sticking to the original storyline and showcasing Alice’s condition in a very humane way. Julianne Moore has given one of the finest performances of her career which will definitely put her as the top contender for this year’s upcoming awards functions.

Moore is ably supported by Alec Baldwin, Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth and Hunter Parrish. Although the pace of the movie is quite slow, you will not find it boring at any point of time. It is a movie one should definitely watch to understand that a person might lose his memories but he or she still remains the same and continue to be the same as they were before losing out to the deadly Alzheimer’s, until the end.

A must watch!

My Verdict: ****
Poor – *, Average – **, Good – ***, Very Good – ****, Excellent – *****