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When music makes your heart soar, explore and love and live life to the fullest – that’s the soundtrack of La La Land in all its glory. Listen and love.Take a bow Justin Hurwitz.

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The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Watching one of your all time favourite books transformed into a spectacular adventure that mirrors almost every word gives you a real kick and a half. ‘The Hobbit‘ is a book that reads like a live adventure and is so engrossing that the reader is made to be a part of the band of hunters seeking their goal. I felt every bit of the adventure in this novel and when Peter Jackson announced that this one small book would be transformed into three movies, I knew his attention to detail would be impeccable. I watched the first part ‘The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey‘ in December 2012 and I found it a bit too slow. It dragged on a bit too much and lacked the punch that the novel held. Maybe Peter Jackson’s attention to details was a bit too much here, I thought.the desolation of smaug - the hobbit

Come April 2014 and I get my hands on a fine HD quality print of the second part in the series ‘The Hobbit – The Desolation of Smaug‘. And I forgive Peter Jackson for all his trespasses in his past movies ’cause the second part really took off and made my day. It’s not about the action, but the environment and mood that the director creates. It’s so full of classic adventure, yet you do not feel tired of it. It’s fun, it’s suspenseful and above all it’s entertaining. While darker and sombre in its mood, ‘Desolation of Smaug’ is a wonderful tribute to the creative landscape of Peter Jackson and the beauty of the New Zealand wilderness where this has been shot. The cast is up to speed with the vision of the novel and bring to life J.R.R. Tolkien‘s journey from the Shire to the Lonely Mountain.Smaug

Never a dull moment, the epic adventure ends abruptly with the viewer asking for more. I definitely can’t wait to watch the final version of this trilogy. One of the highlights of this movie was Smaug. In line with the title, Benedict Cumberbatch does away with his Sherlockian finery and through the wonders of motion capture, gets into the guise of the dragon. It’s cold, it’s hammy, but it’s wonderful watching the tete-a-tete with the thief Bilbo Baggins. And it’s Sherlock vs. Watson here, if you know what I mean.

Action weekend

It was an action fest at home what with four back-to-back movies thumping out heavy soundtracks with bullets, missiles and men whizzing around air, land and water, oh and there was a lady kicking ass too.

G.I. Joe Retaliation

G.I. Joe Retaliation
G.I. Joe Retaliation

Guns, guns and more guns and then there was The Rock (Dwayne Johnson). You can’t deny the fact that this guy has incredible screen presence and is the action star of our generation. Brute force and calculated risks are his forte as he takes on Cobra Commander in this much improved version of the film franchise. While Part 1 was disappointing, specially the Cobra Commander sequence with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, I kind of like Part 2. There were quite  few extravagant fight sequences but that was all that kept the movie going with its wafer thin plot. I didn’t mind this. A good fun ride with thespian Bruce Willis making a guest appearance and some very fine villains. This was a sort of a reboot fo the franchise with the old guard wiped out in the opening sequence. Lets see what more the new GI’s have on offer in the future. One thing – it’s gonna work only with Roadblock (The Rock).

Man of Steel

Man of Steel
Man of Steel

The only Superman movie not to have his name in the title, “Man of Steel” has Christopher Nolan‘s stamp as a producer and Zak Snyder‘s dark and brooding over-the-top atmosphere. The movie started off with a bit of a yawn, I nodded off in between, but caught up with some heavy duty fighting as General Zod began wringing earths defences like a rag doll. This movie has it’s moments and I am with the producers and writer’s on this one as they removed the campyness that I so despise in superhero movies. Overall, a good nod to this genre of movies.

World War Z

World War Z
World War Z

Brad Pitt fights zombies. That would have been the one line brief to the makers of this movie. The movie builds up with a standard hero-with-family-tries-to-save-world premise and somewhere in the middle when you have Brad Pitt’s UN investigator begin his search for a vaccine, then you have a fast paced narrative with interesting set-pieces. I now know why Israel builds its great barrier wall with Palestine. It’s to keep out the zombies. This scene where the zombies try to infiltrate Jerusalem was the most cinematically entertaining part of the movie. Otherwise I would relegate this one to standard action fare. Has it’s moments but a fair view.

Kick Ass 2

Kick Ass 2
Kick Ass 2

This movie didn’t need Jim Carrey’s poor sense of judgment and holier than thou attitude to denounce itself. There are some movies that do not need a sequel, where the sequel only waters down the character. This is one such. All the good work done with the first movie somehow comes undone here and looks over the top. I loved the first installment, this one just doesn’t work as it tries hard to be a continuation. Over-the-top can look good, as it did in the first installment, but here it just falls flat and seems contrived.

So there’s it an action weekend that threw up quite it’s share of entertainment.

 

How much do you weigh?

Emily Blunt’s free spirited catch phrase sums up this light and lovely movie that leaves behind a wonderful feeling on an exhausted heart and mind. ‘Wild Target‘ is a nice small film that leaves you smiling all the way with its simple but heart warming tale of an assassin and his relationship with a would-be victim. Wild Target

Bill Nighy‘s cold assassin and Emily Blunt‘s free spirit are a match made on the city streets and countryside of England. It’s a sight to see the cold as steel Nighy give in to his feelings and do a double-take when it comes to Blunt. She is Blunt in her beauty and vivacity and makes no bones on who she is against the calculating hard-as-nails killer.

The movie has it share of stars who add their own touch to this madcap caper of a movie but I loved the intensity with which the two leads with opposing characteristics literally beat the heat of bullets and a sinister mom who pops in whenever she feels like but in the end proves that mommy knows best as far as her sons profession is concerned.

A day when I faced some personal heat and tried to digest soemthing edible, this was a welcome experience that left me a bit lighter. “How much do I weigh?” Maybe I should have Miss Blunt ask me that now.

‘Earth’ enware

How acceptable is honesty when all that you believe in can be challenged and can be taken head on. ‘For the greater good’ can be a selfish term even though it may involve the fate of the masses, cause the greater good can only be defined by one and passed on. ‘The Man from Earth‘ is a powerful statement to these themes and continues to haunt me even as I blog.The Man From Earth

Life and death may be two sides of the coin but there is a grey area mysteriously explored in ‘The Man from Earth‘. The film takes place in a living room (yes, all one and a half hours of it, except for a few outdoor shots right outside the living room). But hang on to every word, every expression, every exclamation and you are bound to be rooted to your seat without a cup of black coffee to keep you company,

The protagonist is John Oldman, a professor who is packing up and moving to an unknown destination. His colleagues, who include anthropologists, archaeologists, biologists, historians and a psychiatrist stop by to say their final goodbyes when the professor breaks the news that he is actually a prehistoric caveman man who has been on earth for thousands of years. From here on the evening takes on a mysterious turn as the professors first jokingly and then with rising alarm quiz the professor about his past.

The conversation is turned on its head with some powerful revelations that shake the very foundation of the faith of the professors in their knowledge and culture. There are dark undertones to the conversation as it gets uncomfortable as the evening wears on and the professor keeps packing up his stuff as he prepares to leave. Never has a conversation in a movie been as gripping and stimulating and the script leaves you breathless as you wait for the next verbal intellectual bombshell to be thrown at you. Is it fact? Is it fiction? The mystery just gets deeper as darkness falls.

Based on a short story by Jerome Bixby, ‘The Man from Earth’ features an ensemble cast of faces you may have seen in passing in movies and television serials. David Lee Smith is the protagonist and plays the part to convincing perfection with the right level of subtlety. No melodrama, no shocking screeches… it’s a gentle but anxious approach to solve the riddle of Professor John Oldman’s life.

Is it worth speaking the truth when it supposedly defies logic? With an ending that reflects the smooth twists and turns that the conversation takes, this movie has a mortality rate that outlives its running time by a long long way. To top it all the song ‘Forever‘, written by the director Richard Schenkman, that plays at the end credits reflects the beauty of the landscape of the movie. This movie may have been an underdog when it compares to the big budget flicks, but it is a movie with a unique heart and a cryptic mind.

Ode to Wych Kaosayananda

Why would anyone ever make Ecks vs Sever,

while adding the title ‘Ballistics’ forever;

Featuring the international cast of Banderas and Liu,

along with a director who will never ever get his due.

They shoot, maim and they kill,

and we keep watching as we foot the theatre bill;

The monologues sound more like something that rhymes with ‘tart’

In this writer’s structure the donkey came after the cart.

Me act natural, me act deep,

That’s what old Antonio is saying in his sleep;

Me act cat, me act bitch,

That’s Lucy’s swan song and the last time she gets rich.

Who is Ecks? Who is Sever?

Will I get to know this ever,

I am getting euthanised by those flashing images,

Hey, that’s just Antonio and some bobbing cleavages.

Wych Kaosayananda – that’s the director’s name,

I know its a mouthful that you’ll forget all the same;

He would do well as Jigsaw’s next 3D victim,

Or the ‘Human Centipede’s’ next escapade up someone’s rectum.

That’s my two cents on Ballistsic – the max my brain allows,

The box office returns match the number above;

I would advise watching it too,

When you have no backup plan in the loo.

Damme good!

‘There’s somethin’ strange, in the neighbourhood, who you gonna call? – Jean Claude van Damme.’ If Ghostbuster’s was still the international flavour of the season, the anthem every Belgian would be singing while walking the streets of the hometown of the ‘Muscle from Brussels’ would be this.JCVD

Jean Claude Van Damme has been Belgium’s biggest export till Kim Klijsters took away that tag by going love-all with the US Open centre court audience, and he has had a hard fought career roundhouse kicking his way to the top of Direct-to-Video stardom. Not to take away from the fact that he has been a part of successful mainstream Hollywood franchises and individual action movies that have cemented his place as the go-to guy of the non-squint-eyed variety (I am not being racist here, its Hollywood dammit).

There is no ballet in the action sequences he executes, nor memorable one-liners that would tickle the bad guys to no end. Here is an out-and-out action star who’s main competitor in the ’80s and much of the ’90s was a certain Steven Seagal.

Until Death‘ was the first Van Damme movie that gave a glimpse of what he was capable of in terms of lending credibility to his character as someone who could make it to the Oscar podium someday. A totally uncharacteristic performance from the slam-bang goings-on in the Direct-to-Video market, this movie did go the same way, but received wider acclaim as time wore on. And then there was JCVD.

JCVD, an acronym for Jean Claude Van Damme, is the story of a washed up Van Damme who is stuck with direct-to-video releases in the international market, with no brain actioners that manage to just keep the fires burning. This semi-autobiographical film, though fictitious in nature, places Van Damme playing himself in a situation that he could very well have experienced had things gone out of hand in the near past. Director Mabrouk El Mechri, was himself a fan of the Van Damme school of Martial Arts, that brought Bloodsport, Hard Target, Double Impact the respect they deserved in a saturated end of millennium action genre market.

As Van Damme fights a custody case for his daughter in JCVD and fights battles against creditors, he gets back to Belgium for one last try at finding himself as an actor who could relive some past glory. In familiar territory, he gets to meet his fans who stop him to pose for pictures, reminding him of the huge international star he was.

Popping into a post office to withdraw some cash, more as a last resort, he runs into an actual robbery happening and from then on a comedy of errors leads to Van Damme being the main suspect in this robbery that turns into a hostage situation à la ‘Dog Day Afternoon‘ except that there’s no cross dressing lipstick smeared Lothario waiting at the other end.

JCVD turns into a dark comedy infused with Shakespearean intent where the character breaks the fourth wall and directly addresses the audience. This is Van Damme’s finest hour, as in the midst of the hostage situation he launches into a monologue that would make Ian Mackellan‘s Old Vic renderings as impressive as Magneto’s raised eyebrow in each franchise event of the X-Men series.

I felt sad for Van Damme. Here was an action star who ruled the global action box office and was now reduced to being rejected by his very daughter for being a laughing stock of an actor. Two images strike the heart – Van Damme’s rejection by his daughter and the redemption that takes place when she claims him back when he is truly down and out. Watch his face when these events occur. With all due respect to JCVD, it would roundhouse kick every other Oscar emotion that Sean Penn ‘Milk’ed to the brim, and knock the hat off The Last King of Scotland.

Mabrouk El Mechri is a true fan – a fan who knows what this star is worth. Van Damme’s second lease of life, what with the glowing critic reviews, has extended his stay on the dramaction zone where he need not do any more cameos on series like ‘Friends’ and can command himself to opt out of ‘Expendables‘. He is no more the expendable, but a force that can reaffirm his export quality status for Belgium.