Tag Archives: Hollywood

Film Review: Beast (2022)

STORY

Dr. Nate Daniels is a father of two daughters and is recently widowed. The eldest daughter reasons him for her death as she developed cancer immediately after her parent’s separation.

In order to emotionally reconnect with his daughters, Dr. Nate Daniels takes them on vacation to Africa where their mother grew up. Their family friend and wildlife biologist, Martin Battles, assists them in this wildlife journey.

But one shocking day, an injured lion that survived being the victim of the poachers, attacks them and thus begins their attempt at survival of a lifetime.


REVIEW

Beast is an action-thriller that was shot in South Africa and completed in ten weeks. The film’s biggest attraction is British superstar Idris Elba who plays Dr. Nate Daniels.

For the audience who are interested in watching a film based on wildlife survival, fiction or non-fiction, they basically are cognizant of the expectations from the screenwriting. If any of us watch such a film where the main characters are stuck in a compromised situation, we know that they will survive and overcome the unthinkable.

So where does the film stands in captivating the interest of the audience? I will give my fair share of developing zeal to invest my 90 minutes in a film that had Idris Elba fighting a lion.


PLUSES

The writing of this film in the first half convincingly develops the plot. And when the horror lodges to their heavy shock, the writing becomes exuberant.

The audience will build adrenaline when the family starts believing that something is terribly wrong. The element of intensity in this film is outstanding.

A flash of technical brilliance is a must to give a thrill to the audience. Beast offers to its audience excellent sound, an impactful music score by Steven Price, and an incredible design of dead bodies and injuries, followed by superb physical and especially facial performances by all four main characters, particularly the daughters. All these pluses are blended in some fabulous one-shot scenes, a quality of presentation that I wasn’t really expecting.


MINUSES

I feel the whole aesthetics of Beast from such an astounding first half loses that brink of establishing an equally promising continuity.

The pace of the film drops, the screenwriting of survival yet again enters into that Jurassic Park territory, things become obvious, and no further surprises are left to endure.

And some portions of the writing raise question marks throughout the film. How come the lion does not attack Martin Battles before running toward the family? Where were the alligators at night when Dr. Nate Daniels walks in the pond? Seriously, that is the time when the gators are active or perhaps hyperactive. Dr. Nate Daniels catching a snake looked pretty off, and so was the lion surviving the car explosion.


CLOSING REMARKS

Where the pluses level on minuses, here I am observing a bigger concern throughout the film – the case of an injured lion. The pride is obviously hurt but more than that, the lion escaped being hunted by the poachers.

From that arc, from that angle, the lion was actually trying to survive by killing not even humans but animals too. Because the lion lost faith in everything when it was attacked. The lion senses every single nature installed on earth as its enemy and the only way to survive is by killing the others so that the lion lives without any chance of threat.

It is a tragic case for an animal. Despite being the villain of the story, the lion wasn’t really a villain. The humans started this. Had the film not dramatized that opening sequence, the lion would have always been understood as evil.

RATINGS: 7/10



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Film Review: Top Gun: Maverick (2022)

Captain Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell is recalled to Top Gun for a mission where instead of being a fighter pilot, he has to train the Top Gun graduates. While returning to Top Gun, Maverick’s emotional phase meets new parallels, he reunites with his former girlfriend and faces his best buddy Nick ‘Goose’ Bradshaw‘s son Bradley ‘Rooster’ Bradshaw who is infuriated for genuine reasons. More than that, Maverick is still heartbroken by Rooster’s demise.

It is a crazy theory that one of the most iconic, memorable, and beloved films of all-time, Top Gun, can be thought to fetch a sequel after crossing three decades with the same poster boy and results in the legacy of the work meeting new heights. Top Gun: Maverick is unarguably the most ideal sequel one can dream of for their favorite film. This film exceeds all the expectations. It is a groundbreaking success and in my opinion, a cinematic masterpiece dramatizing aviation. You watch such incredible flying sequences and your eyeballs dare not to locomote for a microsecond.

Tom Cruise at 60 shows no signs of slowing down. He along with Top Gun graduates who are young pilots learned to fly fighter jets. They all were put through extensive three-month training to avoid air sickness. While shooting the scenes, the cast was sitting in the fighter jets behind the military pilots. And obviously, they didn’t get to sit straight in F/A-18. They had to go through Cessna 172, then Extra EA-300, then L-39, and eventually F/A-18 when the cast had built a strong ‘G tolerance‘. The young cast can exert that physical pressure but someone at 60 has to be a metahuman. Tom Cruise cruises his life towards extraordinary bounds. This is exactly why Tom Cruise is globally respected and recognized as a true superstar.

One of the most distinguished aspects of the old Top Gun film was the rivalry between Maverick and Tom ‘Iceman’ Kazansky. With the new film moving in a different direction, it was a blessing to see Val Kilmer somehow reprising his role and face Maverick for that one memorable scene. Writing off the Iceman character from the franchise once and for all was the right idea.

Miles Teller as Goose’s son Rooster was the perfect choice who facially reminds us of Anthony Edwards as Goose in the old film. This character was added with the burden of the emotional tragedy that became a complaint towards Maverick especially when the latter wasted a few years of the former’s career. Rooster’s significance to Maverick is so much Donnie Creed to Rocky Balboa.

The writing of this film never disappointed. I liked the pressing about Maverick’s character that despite old age, he wanted to fly and fight. Because this is what he meant to do. He is not a teacher but a naval aviator, a fighter pilot. His repeated insubordination didn’t let him grow further. Or maybe he chose to refuse to obey orders so that he could remain at his post for the love of flying.

The most impressive part of the writing that was followed from the old film is the introduction of the old flame, Penny played by Jennifer Connelly. This character was mentioned twice in the old film but was never shown who she was. Thirty-six years later, we all actually happen to watch this girl coming back into Maverick’s life, and is so exciting. Not sure why Kelly McGillis was not brought back. Could have been equally exciting to see her again meeting Maverick at some point in the film.

With the passing of thirty-six years between the two films, I also liked the recognition of moving ahead from manned aircraft to remote-controlled drones as noticed in the first scene. In order to avoid the shutting of Mav’s scramjet program, he flies the prototype to Mach 10 after which Rear Admiral Hammer Cain warns Maverick that the era of crewed fighter aircraft will soon end.

There was one thing I felt missing in the flying sequences in the old film – a birdstrike. This happened here and I am glad the makers showed the consequences of such tragic incidents. There were many breathtaking flying sequences but the one that screamed my soul was when the team struggles to escape from the SAMs after destroying the Uranium enrichment plant.

I was not convinced by a few factors in the screenplay. For example, the new rivalry between Rooster and Hangman was not detailed as Ice and Mav and therefore looked forced to remind us of the old rivalry. The character of Rooster is not much significance to the film as it should be for a strong supporting role. Mav takes command of the story in its entirety that Rooster looks like filling the minutes. The writing of Rooster lacked the strength to build its own importance in front of Maverick. The way Mav and Rooster stole F-14 from the destroyed air base looked like the writer was running out of ideas. It looked flat to me.

Top Gun: Maverick, in addition to the points I praised above, is the winner in the sound department as well as cinematography and direction. The writing of the film showed that the writers were faithful to the Top Gun legacy and therefore, gifted a respectable and very dedicated sequel to the audience.

RATINGS = 8.6/10

Film Review: Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)

A God killer is on the run killing Gods all over the universe which alerts Thor. And during the course of fighting against all odds, Thor reunites with doctor Jane Foster who, to his surprise, has the powers to wield Mjolnir and has become the Mighty Thor.

The plot had the potential to enrich the Thor franchise but unfortunately, once again, a Thor film is obsessed with forced humor destroying any chance to address the haunting excalibur that is spreading great suffering. All four Thor films were alarmed with incredible threats but made the joke out of everything that resulted in the supremely outrageous outcome.

It was annoying to observe how Thor and his team were being funny despite the children of Asgardians being kidnapped. The entire Zeus sequence was terrible. What was Russell Crowe doing? He could have such a command on a dynamic role but Zeus turned into some funny fat old fart. Absolute mockery. The appearance of the Guardians of the Galaxy was unnecessary.

At a budget of $250 million, the film definitely deserves praise for its striking visual effects and sound. But one factor that struggles to keep this film above the knees is Christian Bale‘s Gorr who was undoubtedly the best thing that happened to Thor: Love and Thunder. Every shot that had Bale was worth watching. It was as if Bale had strictly demanded the director Taika Waititi to be sober when he shoot his scenes. And then the whole understanding of Gorr’s fury was well executed. There was particular angst that troubled Gorr for not overcoming the tragic passing of his daughter and blaming the Gods for it.

The best and the most captivating scene of the entire film was the opening scene with Gorr losing his daughter. And to some extent, Gorr’s reunion with his daughter was also dramatized well. And this is where I am lost in Taika Waititi, he has two different dimensions of shooting a scene. He can make the entire sequence pledged with mockery by adding needless jokes. Or, on the contrary, will give an impact on the sensitivity and motion of the subject.

Why Thor got the fourth film is beyond my understanding. And Disney Studios are now going for the fifth. It is a one-timer silly film that is needed to be watched for the sake of being in touch with the Marvel Cinematic Universe and to watch Bale’s stupendous performance.

RATINGS: 3.5/10

Film Review: Elvis (2022)

Nothing extraordinary to explain what Elvis is about. It is a bio-drama about the life of the king of rock’n’roll, Elvis Presley.

Elvis is the fictional narration of Elvis’ manager Colonel Parker. Austin Butler plays Elvis and Tom Hanks plays Colonel Parker. Baz Luhrmann returned to the director chair after nine years to direct easily one of the most difficult projects to execute for a film project when it comes to a biopic.

Why do I call the project difficult? Because I opine that such iconic figures from any walk of life who had a lot of events in their lives need broad detailing and that is possible only in a limited series or a television drama divided into seasons. Due to very limited screen time, no film can come up with a story that has too much to tell in one go. And this is the exact reason why Elvis for me fails to impress me as some quality bio-drama.


MINUSES

Let me highlight a few points that disturb the edge.

1. A Road Runner Screenplay

From the start, this film is about competing in a 100m sprint race. Result? No development of any particular chronicle due to lack of breathing. The screenplay suffocates between Elvis’ childhood and fame.

2. Performances, Performances, and Performances

One after the other, Elvis performs and performs. Baz Luhrmann gives less concern to some sensitive contents that needed more intense dramatizing. Elvis’ relationship with his mother alone takes more than half a film as her character was that important. But due to limited time, Baz restricted most of the important things and focused on Elvis-Colonel chemistry. His army life, passion for karate, and two other relations with Linda Thompson and Ginger Alden are fully ignored.

3. Perplexed Aesthetics

Elvis is a confused script where the derivation and enthusiasm of the audience override. First, the film begins with the Colonel being the narrator and clearing the air to the fourth wall of why is he not to be blamed for Elvis’ demise. But in the second half, Colonel is visibly at fault with no audible commentary to reason any further. Second, Elvis is dramatized in a way that he was innocent of Colonel’s deception. So the motive of narration and the principle method of addressing the whole film in a particular way fails again.

4. Historical Inaccuracies

Too much liberty has been taken from the historical account. Neither Colonel met Elvis in the carnival nor convinced him at some mirror maze. The colonel was not even in the show where the female spectators couldn’t hold themselves watching him perform for the first time. The meeting at the Hollywood sign never happened. His famous number ‘That’s All Right’ is not depicted accurately. Elvis deceives the audience by trying to frame the screenplay as the true story of the legend.


PLUSES

Elvis doesn’t entirely suffer from lies and the points I have raised above. There are plusses that deserve to be mentioned and praised.

At the start, the young Elvis goes to the gospel church and reinvents himself. The entire sequence establishes his case where his passion for different music genres and the dance moves came from.

Then the first live performance was directed really well. Even if the sequence was not inspired by any true incident, that shot was necessary liberty to describe the first shockwaves of listening and watching to Elvis. Colonel’s description of Elvis from that scene as ‘A Taste of Forbidden Fruit’ is the most perfect one-liner I can listen to about a music legend used in the film.

Tom Hanks as Colonel Parker will eat the sympathetic Elvis loyalists as the cruelty he imposed on his troubling life is painful to cause heartbreak, especially when Elvis collapses and Colonel orders to make him ready for the show. Tom Hanks displays a performance that successfully sparks hatred and annoyance. It was necessary and the legendary actor nails that.

And the biggest delight and the most positive angle of the film is Austin Butler’s performance as Elvis. Thank God Harry Styles was not finalized. I cannot imagine any actor giving his utmost effort to physically present Elvis out from the role on par or better than Austin Butler. This is an Oscar-worthy performance. This guy actually sang those tracks in the film, no singer playbacked him. The dance moves and some of Elvis’ memorable performances are so magnificently and accurately portrayed. The emotional fluctuations and breakdowns are so well acted throughout the film. Had Baz committed a mistake in choosing his Elvis, the film would have met the disaster. A huge burden of the film and Elvis’ legacy are well carried.


ELVIS
Copyright: © 2022 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Photo Credit: Hugh Stewart
Caption: AUSTIN BUTLER as Elvis in Warner Bros. Pictures’ drama “ELVIS,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

CLOSING REMARKS

Elvis rejects being an authentic biographer and chooses to captivate and entertain the young audience about how Elvis and his music defined the era. Elvis focused on what took the king to become easily the greatest music entertainer until the arrival of Michael Jackson. The film is depicted from the colonel’s angle and it would have been so meaningful if the film was depicted from Elvis’ angle.

RATINGS: 5.5/10

Film Review: Prey (2022)

Naru is a young Comanche woman who, along with other tribal people, lives in the Northern Great Plains in the early eighteenth century. Seeking recognition amongst men by becoming a hunter, she witnesses a spaceship in the clouds. Later on, some brutal animal killings make her realize that this hunter is enormous in size and not a human but no one believes her until the predator steps into their territory and starts killing her people and animals.

Prey is a prequel to the Predator franchise, a celebrated science fiction horror series that established cult status in the 1980s. After producing four Predator films and multiple crossovers with Alien, an idea was coined to work on the origins of the predator. I find it an interesting idea to develop a predator’s origins to be traced three hundred years back, an idea that is applicable due to its being extraterrestrial specie. Plus the idea of such a specie in the historic setup is pretty fresh.

What makes Prey more remarkable is the technical brilliance maneuvered in a Comanche subtlety. How fascinating it is to watch authentic portrayals of indigenous North Americans! It never looked like Prey fell into stereotypical portrayals degrading the particular communities into something one-dimensional. This was certain because film producer Jhane Myers is a Comanche and belongs to a Blackfoot Confederacy.

How captivating are the camera work and the directional value enhances the slow proceedings without haste with Naru as the central figure struggling to build a repo. Until the predator shows up, the screenplay is well settled and the audience has been made fully excited to make guesses about how on earth is Naru going to fight herself against such a creature.

It is a win-win impetus when the feminine portrayal of struggle and gallantry is well dramatized. Naru is Wonder Woman in the Predator’s world. Her heroism never fades and at no point does the story takes the liberty to drop a foolish act of exaggerating the screenplay for the sake of entertainment.

Prey is dark, plunged into appealing action sequences with the strong support of Dan Trachtenberg‘s direction and the lively appearance of Amber Midthunder who never makes you dull and dizzy in limited plotting. The life of tribespeople is well dramatized and emphasized in their usual routine by the break of the morning. Observe, the first scene and another that occurred in around twenty-eight minutes with Naru waking up and looking at other people leaving for work.

There are pretty few minuses but the one that reflects my dislikeness is not making the whole film in the Comanche language. The realism would have met its utter respect and authenticity if the Comanche people were merely speaking their own language instead of English.

Besides, I feel Prey has done its part and there is no sign of getting disappointed at all. This film has upgraded the cult interest of the global audience for the Predator franchise and holds a lot of promises for Predator’s future prequel films continuity.

RATINGS: 8.6/10

Film Review: The Gray Man (2022)

When the CIA’s assassin ‘Sierra Six’ finds out that the man he was assigned to kill was a former CIA assassin like him and has evidence of the corruption of the CIA’s lead agent on the assassination mission, Denny Carmichael, Six decides to go rebel and escape. Carmichael hires Lloyd Hansen to track him down and collect the evidence.

The Gray Man can be considered an unofficial tribute to old-school action films and I must admit that it takes courage for the Russo brothers to take such a risk of making an action-thriller with such an ensemble cast.

I noticed in the fighting sequences that there was something about the use of colors during the fights. When Six fights the target in Bangkok, colorful firecrackers enchant the whole scene. Then pink flares are enthralled when Six fights in the plane. It is interesting that there were some particular elements involved to make the fights look interesting.

But there are numerous plotholes and the continuity of the story does not impress. I mean there is nothing much to appeal to the audience. The story is an expired cake, the whole screenplay renders a predictable conclusion. It is not some phenomenal direction even. When you have actors like Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans in the lead with such an impressive supporting lineup of Ana de Armas, Billy Bob Thornton, Alfre Woodard, Jessica Hanwick, and Wagner Moura, the expectations are higher.

Dhanush got some decent minutes in the film and was really impressed with his action sequences. I thought he may get a couple of scenes like any Indian film star in an American film. Perhaps the Russo brothers are considering actors from the Indian film industry to join their films for supporting roles. Randeep Hooda had mesmerizing fighting sequences with Chris Hemsworth in ‘Extraction‘ that the Russo brothers produced.

The one actor that impressed me a lot was little butterfly Julia Butters who displayed a really delicate performance that surely gave all the viewers a feeling of amazement.

The Gray Man is certainly neither bad nor boring. The one action sequence that gave me a thrill was when Six is arrested in Vienna and the mercenaries try to down him. This scene was stretched to around ten minutes. Keeping the whole common sense aside, it was an exciting scene to be entertained. So this is a typical action thriller that can be enjoyed when your friends crash into your room along with popcorn, chips, and soft drinks.

RATINGS: 4/10

Film Review: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)

In a space between two different universes, America Chavez and Doctor Strange are chased and attacked by a demon that kills the latter. Chavez creates a portal and transports herself and Strange’s corpse to Earth-616, the universe on which most of the Marvel films are based. Chavez meets Strange and Wong and informs the threat the world faces because of her ability to travel the multiverse. When Strange consults Wanda about this urgent matter, he realizes that it was her who attacked Chavez to get her powers so that she can reunite with her family that she created in the tv show WandaVision.

Xochitl Gomez as America Chavez, Benedict Wong as Wong, and Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange/Stephen Strange in Marvel Studios’ DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS. Photo by Jay Maidment. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

I am not sure if the plot is inspired by any comic book storyline but if I assume this to be an original screenplay then I will say this is a superb story to continue the Marvel Cinematic Universe. During all this process, making us watch WandaVision last year totally worked because that limited series completely developed Wanda’s character that build a lot of rage that came from her own madness. The connectivity in the MCU has always been impressive and as usual, this film also played the card exceptionally well.

A kind of story presented to the audience, I opine to have watched more superheroes involved due to the fact that Wanda’s threat to the human race should have alerted most of them if not all. Strange didn’t bother to seek assistance from anyone because this was actually a threat on a massive scale nor did anyone sense and showed up himself/herself. Being situated mostly in the same city, one must be thinking about where most of the saviors go in a particular superhero film when the city is under threat.

Introduction of America Chavez to the MCU is quite raw and director Sam Raimi should have touched on her origins in a proper way. Standing on memory lane is certainly not enough. And due to the fact that Chavez’s character remains unbaked, it was more awkward to watch such an important storyline, a game-changer in the MCU, was constructed between Strange and Wanda for Chavez.

One aspect that I felt betrayed and annoyed about in the film was killing all the members of the Illuminati. You just introduced them to the audience and gave us chills to watch the return of Patrick Stewart as Professor Charles Xavier. If that wasn’t enough, the makers fulfilled the everlasting wish to see John Krasinsky as Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four and Hayley Atwell as Captain Carter. To my surprise, they even brought back Anson Mount as Black Bolt that he played in Inhumans, a show that met with extreme disappointment. And Sam Raimi killed them within twenty minutes. Despite the fact that those were alternate characters from different timelines, it was still cruel to kill the characters like that. I expected an exciting start by Illuminati in the MCU but all in vain.

I personally felt that the film was running hurriedly. Also, Sam Raimi’s direction gave the audience a little edge to hang on because the rollercoaster ride in the MCU films is almost alike. This film was a bit birdy but sloppy with less number of sequences shot with some care. In this film, Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch is the winner as she impresses by executing her tragic character so well. Wanda has to be the best-developed character in the MCU that was written and continued with meticulous care.

Overall, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a sublime effort in carrying the torch of the MCU. It was a difficult script for a very significant moment in the universe. I won’t say that the film surpassed all the expectations, a hype that was built through the trailers but it was not even bad at all. This sequel was way better than the first Doctor Strange film.

RATINGS: 6.7/10

Film Review: Morbius (2022)

Dr. Michael Morbius has had a rare blood condition since childhood and his adoptive father sends him to a medical school in New York. He becomes a top biologist and tries to find a cure for his disease and in this process, he runs some blood tests on himself that turns him into a vampire.

At first, the film held some promises when Morbius finds a cure and tries to eradicate the disease. But after turning into a vampire, the screenplay met a severe low and the film in its entirety became predictable at a very lazy pace.

The continuity of the film gave no impression and at halfway mark, my interest in the film was lost due to some reasons. One, the direction is ordinary, there is no depth, and lacks subtlety. Two, a superb selection of actors but below-average performances. Jared Harris as Dr. Nicholas is wasted due to less screen time, and Matt Smith was disappointing. What is Tyrese Gibson doing?

Three, the script has ridiculous plotholes and if not, then it is a very confusing script to direct. How did so many Costa Rican bats get trapped in the first scene when they flew out from the cave in the open air? How come only Dr. Bancroft became a vampire after the bite but the other victims stayed dead? How did the trapped bats assist Morbius to defeat Milo when these were locked in the lab? How come no one in the subway got frightened by two vampires fighting?

The existence of Michael Keaton as Vulture is very confusing. How is he transported? I thought Strange‘s magic spell placed everyone in their respective universes. So how come Adrian Toomes knows about Spiderman and asks Morbius to team against him? And how did Toomes gear up? Milo revealed to Michael in the prison that he also used a blood plastic flask in his absence. But the major concern is how come the security didn’t find out the flask in his pocket? He lied about his being a lawyer. How come he couldn’t get caught at the security checking. Did he show them his fake lawyer card or what?

Morbius makes the audience boo because there is nothing much to be impressed with. To some extent, Jared Leto played his part of Morbius pretty well but certainly not one of the roles he will be remembered for. And Leto-Smith’s onscreen brotherhood was a delight that translated their roles into pains and tears of their origins that leads to need and greed due to which they began to fight. But Smith’s character development was extremely immature. The film needed to drop some minutes in Smith’s Milo turning evil after drinking the blood.

Morbius is easily one of the worst superhero films produced in recent years. A film that missed almost every element to impress the audience.

RATINGS: 3/10

Film Review: Lady Sings The Blues (1972)

PREFACE

Lady Sings The Blues is the bio-drama of the legendary Jazz singer Billie Holiday. It is based on her autobiography with the same title. This film marked two notable debuts. One was Diana Ross‘ as an actor who played the central character and the other was Motown‘s big daddy Berry Gordy Jr. as a film producer. The film didn’t meet a mega success but got recognition with five nominations for the Academy Awards.

This film tempted me to watch it for a few important reasons. One is that I am a fan of Billie Holiday and have listened to most of her songs, including Decca Recordings. After watching The United States Vs. Billie Holiday last year, I felt that I must check this old classic to observe their take on her life. Another reason is that I never watched Diana Ross as an actress, have only listened to her music. And then Berry Gordy trying his hand at the film production made my mind further because I have huge respect for this man for giving birth to Motown Records through which many legendary singers and bands blessed us with rich music, especially in R&B and Soul.

ISSUES

The impressions I held for the film met a fatal blow for some critical reasons. Let me try to highlight a few.

The most critical error is Diana Ross herself. Despite a breathtaking performance, her selection for the role of Billie is a huge question mark. She neither reminds Billie facially nor her vocals while in character, Diana’s vocals are not even close to her. Billie had a distinguished voice that defined the Jazz music that was played in the 1930s and 40s. Those ears who have listened to the recordings of Billie will clearly complain that Diana didn’t try to give a feel of Billie in her voice at all. With such a problem in the selection, the film makes you believe more in Diana’s story instead of Billie’s.

The second issue with the film is that despite being adapted from her biography, a lot of liberty is taken from the material. Even if I keep the book aside or say that the film is not based on any book but is based directly on the legendary singer without the use of any source, the screenplay is questionable. The handsome Billy Dee Williams plays Billie’s husband, Louis McKay, and fits in the story when Billie was a rookie in the nightclub. Whereas, Louis came into Billie’s life later. Billie married three times in her life but the film mentions Louis as if he was in her life right from the start. And then the characterization of Louise is doubtful. Louise was abusive to Billie but here, he is totally opposite. So if the actual reputation of Louise really is bad then this bio-drama disrespects Billie’s sentiments by showing her cruel man with the Godly image.

Another problem is that the film ignores the dark consequences in Billie’s life like the troubles she faced with legal issues. The film missed the chance to depict how her most famous song “Strange Fruit” impacted the audience. In the film, Billie witnesses some terrifying cruelty on the African-Americans and then sings this track. And then there is no mention of it. If you make a film on Billie, you have to tell the world the political and social impact of the song.

IMPRESSIONS

My criticism about the film is based on fact that it did no justice to Billie’s legacy. I felt like the makers preferred to give Diana a platform to establish herself as an actress rather than present us with the life of a legend in those troubling times in America.

But true story aside, there is no doubt about the film’s excellence if I take a general view. Sidney J. Furie is quite a name who has been directing films for around six decades. And he did a splendid job in directing this film. There were a few intense scenes that can make the audience uncomfortable like Billie’s first performance in the nightclub when the audience breaks her confidence for not picking their money from her body despite singing so well. It was a social mockery of the public concern that portrays the horrors of singing at the nightclub.

Billie witnessing dead bodies on the trees and people around lamenting is another shot carefully directed that led to Billie’s health deterioration. Not sure if such an incident occurred but there is a scene when Billie is enjoying herself with all her white friends in the touring band when the bus is suddenly stopped to pave way for KKK demonstrators. Billie gets angry and passes angry verbal remarks leading to a bus attack and minor injuries. It was a very significant shot to spare a thought for. Even if such an event never happened with Billie, it still qualified as the need of the hour to give a glimpse of political unrest to the audience.

It is hard to believe that this was the first time Diana Ross performed in the film. The moment Diana enters the prison to be thrown into her cell at the beginning, she doesn’t remind any of us if this is a performance. Her facial expressions and body language were perfect.

CLOSING REMARK

I like the film in general. If I keep this out of my head that this is based on the true life of a legend, it is an excellent film with a fabulous performance by Diana, some good support from an impressive casting, excellent costume design, and direction. But the main purpose of the film was to watch Billie’s life in the reel and that did no justice. After all, this is why this film came into production but took a lot of liberty. So enjoy the film about her life but believe almost nothing about what most of the film showed you.

RATINGS: 5/10

Film Review: The Batman (2022)

INTRODUCTION

If there is one superhero most of the directors wish to direct, the global audience gets mesmerized, and comic geeks would always love to talk about for hours, it is Batman. The new line of work about Batman and his city was planned back in 2014 when Ben Affleck was writing, directing, and starring as Batman in this very film. Entered Matt Reeves and Ben’s ideas and creativity about the entire project went off. Matt Reeves was a very fitting selection after his artistry behind the Ape trilogy. His vision behind presenting Gotham city and the inspirational elements he was willing to apply in this project plus the casting for the major characters was topping the expectations. I happened to watch The Batman a couple of days ago. So let me try to analyze.

Bruce Wayne is fighting against crime in the city for the past two years. Officer Gordon summons him to scrutinize a crime scene committed by Riddler in which the mystery to catch him is directed only to the Batman. With his involvement comes anger amongst Gotham police as no one trusts him besides Gordon. While trying to discover the next targets on Riddler’s agenda, he meets Selina Kyle a.k.a. Catwoman through crimelords Oswald Cobblepot a.k.a. Penguin, and Carmine Falcone. During all this, Bruce also digs to find answers about his deceased father Thomas Wayne. While the film enters into its final hour, it is a little late for Batman to realize that the entire Gotham city is under major threat.

Matt Reeves opened up to Esquire that his influences for making this film were some 1970s classics like The French Connection, Chinatown, Taxi Driver,  a critically acclaimed comic-book story ‘Batman: year One‘, and rock band Nirvana. This pretty much shows how clear is Matt’s vision. Besides Year One, the film will a lot remind of ‘The Long Halloween storyline. 

CHARACTERS

Let me first talk about the characterization of Batman in length. Robert Pattinson as Batman had mixed responses when his selection was announced. He is not the same vampire and has improved a lot in his performances as well as picking films. This character has always been judged as Batman but not Bruce because the audience is unlucky to not have watched much of Bruce Wayne as a Gothamite who is loyal to his city and a philanthropist who is generous for welfare. Only a few minutes are given to this side as the film centers around the dark knight who fights crime usually at night. So once again, Bruce’s heroism was limited just like in the previous films about Batman. There was certainly a reflection of the good side of Bruce in the memorial scene; but if you notice Robert Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne, this rich guy doesn’t really look so dedicated to the city as he has always been in the comics or previous films. He takes crimefighting very personally as an act of revenge after the murder of his parents. This is confirmed in the beginning phase when Bruce doesn’t show any interest in his company’s financial affairs when Alfred tries to convince and he responds what he is doing (at night) is his family’s legacy.

Plus Bruce as a person in this film looks more natural in characterizing this antihero than in any of the enactions before. Robert Pattinson’s Bruce is more lost and sadist than any portrayals. He has a lot of rage with killer instincts and is about to beat some crook to almost death. This man is weird, he doesn’t portray an ideal rich playboy but is more of a thinker whose emotions have shattered away while trying to bring justice into this crazy city.

So when I say that this Batman is fighting crime for only two years in the city, that still counts as a rookie. And his two years of buildup as the phenomenal combatant still are not through to the physical challenges. He gets punches pretty quickly. Gets visibly exhausted like one in a bar when he wants to see Penguin. A major surprise to the audience is that this Batman is afraid of heights. Yes, he also fails in his heroics like when he tries to land after flying from the top of the Gotham Central Police Department (GCPD) tower. All this makes this Batman very realistic to the period Matt Reeves has set for Gotham.

Zoë Kravitz as Catwoman didn’t appeal to me as much as Selina Kyle. I felt if Catwoman was some forced character that was tried to fit into the mystery. Not that much was focused on Selina Kyle but was connected with Carmine Falcone that also looked pretty nonsensical. John Turturro as Falcone was a superb choice but the problem with the character is that the minutes on him are the least to focus on because he is always a sub-supporting character. Imagine Penguin being his chief lieutenant had more screen minutes than Falcone.

I am not sure why Colin Farrell was selected for Penguin with so many prosthetics and makeup done on the actor to look like Penguin. No doubt he did a fine job and he is holding a lot of promises for future films. Jeffrey Wright as officer Gordon has to be the worst character in the film. No, this is not about race swapping, Jeffrey is a quality actor and I am okay with his being Gordon. The problem is the characterization. In the entire film, he looked so dumb and desperate for solutions. I felt Gordon was clueless without Batman and had no guts to solve some of the mysteries himself. I was expecting a very strict and hardcore Gordon who has some hold even if he is just an officer because this is how James Gordon is.

Andy Serkis as Alfred did a fair job although it was a short role. The character doesn’t remind me of any comics storyline but fair enough as the film is very much based on Matt Reeves’ vision. The comics version of Alfred has never been portrayed in the films.

Paul Dano has been a very underrated actor throughout his career and he deserved a role that will make him remembered by the mainstream audience. He needed this push. When his name was announced for the film’s main antagonist Riddler, I had this feeling that this is a very serious and intelligent choice. Because Riddler has always been taken for fun. This time the director made sure that Riddler will now have the fun. This is a remarkable psychotic portrayal of Riddler and marvelous execution. I was fully sold on what I watched. The threat he imposed on Gotham and tested Batman’s heroism was genuine.

In such a lengthy film, I felt there was a lot of space to fit at least three characters in the film. One was Gordon’s daughter Barbara who will become Batgirl. With so much screentime of showing up together, Gordon could have introduced Batman to his young girl. The other is Ted Grant a.k.a. Wildcat who taught Catwoman boxing and streetfighting in one of the storylines in Catwoman’s comics. Wildcat also holds the distinction to be one of the few comic characters who trained Batman. And the third is Leslie Thompkins, the doctor who helped raise Bruce Wayne when he lost his parents. Leslie has been a motherly figure to Bruce in comics and was also a close friend to his father Thomas. When Batman was digging for answers in the middle of the film about his father, he could have asked for Leslie’s assistance or just met her for a few minutes.

SCENES

Bruce Wayne’s commentary in the beginning and ending drives me towards the comics. Both scenes of his commentary shots on some catchy scenes were like many first pages of the storylines where a major character or the writer addresses the intro to give a particular start to a comic book. The lines narrated by Bruce are so comics-oriented.

I am thankful to Matt Reeves for breaking the tradition of dramatizing the murder of the Waynes. This scene is so popular that those viewers who do not follow superhero films know about Batman’s tragic childhood story. Instead, this incident was used in the news bulletin that looked more appropriate to proceed with the story in the current timeline.

In the beginning, a group of thugs attacks a man and they have all painted their faces like Joker. Whereas Joker’s cameo happens when the film is finishing. So the portrayal of street gangs indicates that Joker terrorized the city and influenced the gangs to adopt his cult. Batman put him in the cage and perhaps dropped down some criminal activities. One of the guys in the gang is Jay Lycurgo who incidentally also stars in other Gothamverse, Titans as Tim Drake. Interestingly, he is the odd one in that gang with half makeup. So is he inspired by Two-Face? Does Two-Face already exist?

One of my favorite scenes in the film is the public memorial of Mayor Mitchell. The direction is master class, and Robert gives a thoughtful performance. If anyone observes this memorial scene, Bruce was silent all that time besides the two words he uttered in question to the lady running for mayor, “I’m Sorry?”. He observed the memorial from top to bottom, left to right, every possible important person or a thing he could have checked in for clues. And then a noise breaks out indicating a possible terror attack from far a distance panicking everyone in the memorial. The next half a minute you watch after the breaking of the exterior noise is what Matt deserves applause for. How magnificently a terror attack was picturized! Notice everyone who reacted to the noise. Every single attendee reacted naturally, no one showed a sign that this was some scene to act. This is the director’s determination I am much impressed with. He wanted every single extra to behave naturally to the threat. This was the most perfect terror scene I have watched in years, if not decades.

One of the things I really liked about the film was that Batman and Riddler, the main antagonist, had only one encounter in the entire 176 minutes. And the hype lived up to it. It was intense and mad. But one of the heavy surprises was Riddler saying his name in a stretch. So does he know that Bruce is Batman? Yes, he knows. Riddler is a smart guy making his crime mysteries the hardest to solve. So it will be a piece of cake for Riddler to figure out who is behind the mask. Plus, Riddler was looking straight at Bruce in the memorial. No? Why would he do that? Of course, he knows who Batman is.

In the comics storyline ‘Batman: Hush‘, Riddler correctly guessed about this. The audience may feel as if that’s a plothole. Why would Riddler not expose the real identity to the world? Because if he exposes him, who will he play the riddling game with? Where lies the beauty of guessing if Riddler exposes him? The plothole is, how come no one listened to the conversation between them in GCPD and found out that Batman is Bruce Wayne?

In one of the last scenes of the film, Batman saves some lives and it is quite cogent when he rescues one of the Gothamites on the stretcher and she in all trauma holds his arm while Bruce narrates in the background that vengeance will not change the past, he has to become more and people need hope. Perhaps Bruce realized at the moment when one of Riddler’s followers called himself a vengeance, that his being vengeance is not helping and giving a wrong influence. He has to make alterations to his gloomy despair to bring optimism to living in this city.

Although the film didn’t allow the viewers to get thrilled with the most anticipating face-off. But the deleted scene after the film’s release gave the viewers a glimpse of the clown prince of crime and Batman’s biggest archenemy Joker played by Barry Keoghan. With Keoghan’s selection comes a heavy responsibility on the shoulders of both Matt and this 29-year-old talented Irish actor to play one of the most challenging roles in Hollywood. He surely is the first actor to become Joker in a film who is not a well-established actor. By that, I mean he, as an actor, is not there where Joker actors like Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger, Jared Leto, and Joaquin Phoenix have reached and decorated their names and careers. Incidentally, each of them has won an Oscar in their lifetime.

Of what I have watched in that brief clip, I believe Barry’s version has to be the most horrifying (and for weak-hearted viewers the most terrifying) Joker ever presented in the film. Since Heath Ledger’s Joker, every time a new Joker has shown up in either film or television format, the character has looked more deranged and psychotic which is actually challenging and thoughtful to test up to what extent can Joke be dramatized to madness. And how much insanity can an actor prevail?

With plentiful scars, a very few hairy portions on the burnt head, bloody hands with broken fingernails, this Joker looks like a subject of severe self-torture after all hell broke on his personal tragic life. And the voice is very similar to Heath’s Joker. He also looks to gain some emotional control with skeptical remote insanity. Observe his polite response to Batman when he reads the file. It was a smart move to shoot this scene as blurry towards Joker and reveal the facial disgust later. I predict this is going to be the most intelligent Joker ever to surface in films. And if he really makes a partnership with Riddler as depicted, Gotham shall not be ready for this merciless showdown. So, really excited to watch him in the sequel.

MUSIC

Great ideas do not muddle. The use of Nirvana’s track ‘Something In The Way‘ in ‘The Batman’ was apt. It was played twice, in the beginning, and in one of the last scenes. We don’t often listen to the same track more than once in a film. So why did Matt Reeves give this much importance to the track in the film? This has something to do with the elements of rock, rage, dominance, sadism, and revenge. These elements, besides rock, are common in both Batman and Nirvana. More than rock, Batman has been more about the symphony and his city Jazz and Blues. Batman’s commentary and the song’s lyrics also match the dark fate of the city. There is the line in the song “And the animals I’ve trapped have all become my pets”. This pretty much suits Batman’s personal trophies from his crimefighting where animals like crocodile, penguin, cat, bat, and a few more are his pets.

After Hans Zimmer blessed our ears with one of the most beloved music scores for Christopher Nolan‘s The Dark Knight trilogy, it is a multitude of challenges for any composer to come close to Hans and give a score for the Batman films as memorable as that work. Matt’s frequent collaborator Michael Giacchino tried his best and made a decent attempt. Let me halt comparing and talk about Batman’s new theme. Many Star War fans around the world are in for a treat to get mesmerized by this theme because that is an obvious reminder of one of the most iconic Star Wars themes, Imperial March. Imperial March associates with Darth Vader and with that wrath comes a piece of music that represents the rage of hellfire. If Giacchino actually took the inspiration from a theme about one of the most iconic supervillains to apply to one of the most iconic superheroes, he certainly deserves praise. This Batman theme sounds more broken and vexated, some buildup of a nightmare on the criminals appalled by the Dark Knight.

ISSUES

As explained above, from my point of view, most of the characters didn’t do justice besides Batman and Riddler. Besides, the role of GCPD was below par portrayal like any action film that doesn’t will to give some prominence to their crime-fighting. GCPD looked extremely compromised and clueless, and so was Gordon. Maybe the theory is that GCPD would have gone so dysfunctional all this time that the city got destroyed by so much corruption. But still, GCPD and Gordon were not good enough in the film.

Gordon summons Batman to solve the crime scene. This was the first time Batman was directly involved in GCPD’s case. I am more unreluctant to understand how Batman and GCPD fought crime before this for two years. If Gordon believed in Batman, how were they fighting crime in that period? Was there no bigger threat or major villain who showed up two years before Riddler?

The film in the middle was dead meat. The screenplay consumed a lot of time in searching for the clues and trying to identify if Thomas Wayne was a bad politician or if he was framed for death.

‘The Batman’, as a whole, has a more television show feel than a film. The editing of the film makes you think if four or five episodes have been attached together and shaped into a film. Due to this reason, the cinematic feel of watching The Batman is dingy. The making of this film does support the classic filmmaking element of neo-noir and there is no doubt about Matt Reeves’ direction for the film has been exceptional and innovative.

I am not convinced with the final phase of the film after Batman understands the threat Gotham is imposed. The writing of this phase looked flat. It was just another action-packed phase like any superhero film with not much extraordinary effort in writing. Bombing the city, lookalike henchmen terrorizing, predictable action scenes, etc. I felt a quality of writing was fading before and after the bombing.

QUESTIONS

Barry Keoghan in a cameo appearance shows up as the clown prince of crime and Batman’s biggest archenemy, Joker. After the release of the film, Matt Reeves releases a deleted scene of around five minutes of Batman’s interrogation with Joker. I am not sure why was this decided by the makers to remove this scene from the final cut. This scene held a lot of importance and would have worked in the middle of the film while Batman tries to catch Riddler. It is an open secret that Joker will show up in any of the future Batman films. It is impossible to complete Batverse without him. So it is illogical to delete this scene. And if the director wished to keep the audience thrilled by Joker’s existence in the last phase, why release the deleted scene then?

Will Riddler return? I think he will. But I feel technically his time is up and should stay imprisoned in the Arkham Asylum and let Matt Reeves let him pass the torch to Joker and other future villains. Riddler’s mission failed and hence, makes no reason to bring him back but rather focus on other bad guys. There are so many who deserves their time in this Batverse. If the plan is for a trilogy which is highly likely, then the villains will be limited to the most popular ones.

Catwoman leaves Gotham in the final scene. That is another technical conclusion of the character, just like Riddler. And there are many ladies to become Bruce/Batman’s love interest. This Batverse can work on introducing the photographer/reporter Vicki Vale and develop a love affair with Bruce like in the comics. She was the closest of all the Gotham characters to theorize that Bruce could be Batman. If Matt Reeves consider Talia, that will lead to all new dimensions and start a story towards Ra’s al Ghul. Jezebel Jet can also play the part of a woman who plotted to destroy him while secretly working for the Black Glove in ‘Batman R.I.P.‘ storyline. or maybe it is time to introduce Kathy Kane a.k.a. Batwoman in this universe and we watch both Bat man and woman fight the crime in their costumes. Is bringing a heroine in Batman films really important? Depends on the writer/director that how he pushes his script in the continuity. But Bruce has been a playboy so there is a certainty. It will also be wise if no more woman enters his life as Robert Pattinson’s Bruce maintains a dark emotional journey.

Mayor Mitchell was killed at the start and his kid showed up a couple of times. Why? The Batman looks at him and surely remembers his time. So who is he? Is this boy Robin? It is quite exhilarating that in the first instance, the boy looked at Batman at the crime scene and the next time, he looked at Bruce Wayne in the memorial. Such a dramatic touch!

It is quite a touch of framing a kid into theorizing a solid future of crimefighting. The origin story of Robin aside, it will be quite an interesting idea to buy for the sequel where the boy gets picked by Bruce and pays for his well-being. And in the third Batman film, Bruce begins to train him which leads to joining him as a crime partner. I would love to see that happen.

But in this theory, the problem is the boy’s age. He is too young to become the boy wonder. That is the other case if the timeline jumps in the sequel.

CONCLUSION

‘The Batman’ holds technical brilliance in dialogues, cinematography, writing, and direction. The film holds a lot of promises for continuity. The characters that didn’t live up to the expectations can get developed in the sequels. The Batman broke a lot of traditions like not bringing back Batman’s hoarse voice, not dramatizing the murder of Bruce’s parents, dismantling Bruce’s close-to-perfect rich personality, and applying a lot of realism.

The film’s cinematic accomplishment is that most of the audience is not willing to take down Matt Reeves’ imagining of Gotham and understanding of Batman and argue that The Dark Knight Trilogy did better. That trilogy has earned the respect of all the noble courts of comics. This film scales itself from that respect and distinguishes itself from the acceptable aesthetics of Batman’s world. It is a promising trilogy to the hype with new and fresh expectations. Perhaps, another memorable trilogy about Batman is surfacing in the coming years to earn new respect. Time will tell.

Another major plus that separates ‘The Batman’ from all the past films centered around Batman is that this is a detective film. Batman has been a crime fighter all his life but first, he is a detective. Comics have always emphasized his role as a detective more than a crime fighter. The directors in the past usually dramatized the films based on Batman as a crime-fighting superhero. Matt Reeves understood the character precisely and presented his true characterization. And that’s a win for me.

The Batman has room for improvement, there are issues that I addressed above. But I also admit that this is a spectacular start. I want the epic plunge into the cosmos of wholesome brilliance in Batmanship. Hope the bite doesn’t get rotten.

RATINGS: 8.4/10