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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

Film Review: The Eyes of Tammy Faye (2021)

Tammy Faye (Jessica Chastain) and Jim Bakker (Andrew Garfield) discover each other in the college and find the ultimate purpose to live together – spreading the message of God. With time, they become one of America’s biggest showrunners in the history of evangelical television shows. But with immense success comes challenges and personal conflicts that jeopardize their holy rank as America’s most influential and beloved televangelists.

Faye and Bakker led two of the biggest and most popular evangelical television shows, The PTL Club and The 700 Club. The Eyes of Tammy Faye is mostly based on the 2000 documentary with the same name. Most of the sources have been taken from this documentary.

Based on the true story and events, the film guarantees higher historical accuracy. Most of the thick points in the film are correct like Tammy Faye’s permanent makeup, her affair with the record producer Gary Paxton, her segment on penile implants, and interviewing AIDS activist Steve Pieters, etc.

The intensity is built in the middle of the film when Tammy and Jim suffer personal conflicts. I think during all the crises that begin to occur in the middle, the director missed dramatizing Jim Bakker’s affair that shattered their lives and reputation. That was a very critical incident and deserved minutes. The angle of the story bending towards their crisis should have been directed towards the affair.

More than the film’s entire making, average direction, and not-so-tightly-gripped screenwriting, the film earns respect from the audience through spectacular performances by the leading actors, Jessica Chastain and Andrew Garfield. Also, I must not forget to mention the film’s significant plus in brilliant makeup and hairstyling. I have read about Jessica’s makeup that it was prepared to clock around five hours along with prosthetics.

Garfield is in superb form but Jessica recently went on to win the Oscar for Best Actress for this role. She deserves it and I must say that it was really a tough call between her, Kristen, and Kidman for the roles they were nominated for. All the three ladies gave extraordinary performances. But I think Jessica may have won this contest for her incredible performance under very heavy makeup and she also sang some numbers herself. Plus, her portrayal was so spot on. You can clearly listen to the voice of Tammy Faye coming from Jessica’s mouth. If you observe Faye’s real videos on YouTube especially conducting an interview with Steve, you will realize that Jessica gave a very splendid performance.

The winner of two Academy Awards, The Eyes of Tammy Faye is an average drama that should only be watched to see Jessica and Garfield.

Ratings: 6.5/10

Film Review: Elmer Gantry (1960)

A mounteback named Elmer Gantry is a traveling salesman who has a magnetic personality and looks for an opportunity to make money by sweet talks, and by permeating the words of the Bible in his passionate speeches. One day, he finds a purpose in life when he spectates an evangelist Sister Sharon Falconer and joins her organization.

Elmer Gantry is an American film produced in 1960 and was adapted from Sinclair Lewis‘s famous novel with the same title. By the time, the novel was published and released, the book received uproar and was widely criticized for writing out some bold details about the religious business and revivalism that happened in the United States a century ago. It was a satirical novel that gave the readers some idea of manipulating the staunch loyalist members of the evangelistic church and raising the money for the business.

The same case is with the film that sparks a lot of attention in the eyebrow-raising dialogues; especially when Elmer and Sister meet the other church leaders. The film takes quite a liberty to expose the concept of Revivalism. The way the organization is depicted functioning and the church leaders are portrayed concerning the religious affairs to cash their personal gains ridicules the traditional beliefs and practices of organized Christianity. Director Richard Brooks dared to touch the subject but the productional aesthetics are so sharp that the portrayal of selling religion in America is on the razor edge for the audience. Gantry and Sister Sharon are the messiahs of this cult for the White Americans. Observe a short church scene at the start where the African-Americans sang a hymn, their method distinguishes and Elmer, despite all the religious dedication to singing along with them, chooses to move on and look for a better market.

Burt Lancaster as Elmer Gantry is a blessing to the eyes of the audience. A role of a lifetime, a performance that occurs rarely in a generation. I felt that Burt and Elmer were to admire each other’s work and someone had a mission to unite them on a platform. From the beginning until the end, Burt mesmerized me and surely most of the viewers with his incredible performance. His pitch, his sermon, his body language, everything was just incredible. A lively and charming characterization of Gantry was made possible by Burt and I hardly believe anyone from that era would have nailed this role. I think of Gregory Peck but he would have looked too rich for Gantry. I think Anthony Quinn or Kirk Douglas would have pulled a performance if Burt was not given this role. Burt’s performance meets variations with time. When Gantry meets criticism after being caught in the scandal, he is shamed in the hall by limited angry spectators. They throw eggs and vegetables on him and he is mute and lost allowing them to throw their rage on him. What a magnificent shot that was when the trumpeter plays on his face and back, as he walks away in shame and people keep throwing the mess on him.

Elmer Gantry was not only enviable due to Burt’s phenomenal performance but also due to the superb assistance of the supporting performances of Jean Simmons as Sister Sharon and Shirley Jones as Lulu Bains.

If this film is remade, I would want Paul Thomas Anderson to direct with any of Joaquin Phoenix or Oscar Isaac being considered to play Elmer Gantry, Rooney Mara as Sister Sharon (plus she resembles Jean Simmons a lot), and Anya Taylor-Joy as Lulu.

The film is the winner of three Academy Awards that includes a deserving Oscar for Burt as the Best Actor. I think Elmer Gantry is one of the earliest pinnacles of portraying the deception of being some false messiah or a prophet. The quality of depicting hypocrisy, the corrupted hearts of showrunners, people being foolish, and some being gold-diggers is very well dramatized. Elmer Gantry is quite a cinematic example of compromising faith by applying materialism in the obscure art of selling religion.

Ratings: 8.4/10

Film Review: Spider-Man No Way Home (2021)

After Peter‘s identity is revealed and is framed for the drone attack and Mysterio‘s death, Peter struggles to escape from the backlashes and overcome the damage of his being the main reason behind terrorizing the city. When he seeks help from Strange, he casts a spell for good. But the spell is corrupted due to Peter’s repeated interference that leads to opening doors for people from other universes.

I think it was a fantastic plot and the continuity of the never-ending ever-growing universe has met strong parallels. The concept of multiverses will go further wide that is certain to happen in Doctor Strange’s upcoming sequel, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. But my reason for the plot being really impressive has to do with the characterization of New York’s friendly neighbor. Whatever happened to New York in this film was because Peter couldn’t tolerate the revelation of his identity. The consequences were strong. But Peter made the mess by corrupting Strange’s spell. After all, Peter is a boy, he is not mature. If you notice, he has always needed support from the others in this universe, majorly from Tony Stark. He was Peter’s godfather and after all the support Peter got, Tony died and re-orphaned him. Peter also got the support of Nick Fury and took Mysterio as a crime-fighting partner. In this film, Murdock saved his ass from the charges.

If Peter was mature, he would have faced the consequences after the revelation. He would have never come to Sanctum Sanctorium. Strange further squeezed Peter’s childishness when he couldn’t believe that he didn’t even ‘convince them’ and reached for his help without making an effort. It was a very funny scene and I hit my palm on my forehead but simultaneously that is what Peter Parker in a human was best picturized all this time. After this film, there is no argument about who the best spidey is. Tom Holland‘s Spider-Man is the most ideal portrayal of all time.

At the same time, I was also met with surprises for the wrong reasons. One critical angle that is downplayed is Doctor Strange. Being the new leader of this universe and literally the one who holds the fate of the world by sorcery, how can he ever think of brainwashing the entire world just to make people forget that Peter is Spidey? How come Strange didn’t believe in the critical consequences of what he was attempting? I know it was too funny that he was wandering in the Grand Canyon for half a day. But why? How come he doesn’t have the power to open a portal and return? I don’t have knowledge if that ancient relic was the only support Strange had.

Peter escaping from charges at the start had zero potential to give a dark outcome and face trials and wait for the answers of his non-committed crimes. Director Jon Watts could have given us a gripping segment of his worst phase with all doors closing to his heroism. But all those moments were skipped with Murdock’s one call and Peter all of a sudden goes clean. Murdock’s character would have made more rounds instead of a cameo if we had that difficult phase for at least thirty minutes. All the hype that was built in the end credits of Spidey’s previous chapter met hardly ten minutes.

It was exciting to see all those major villains of the previous Spidey films but their characters and villainous elements were toned down. They looked humble and generous to respond to Spidey and agree for help. Those bad guys were all together and could have easily invaded the city. But Peter taking them to his home looked extremely flat and non-sensical. How can Peter be that dumb and not understand that believing your enemies to help you is straight foolishness? He believed his instincts so much that he decided to snatch the relic from Strange and help the villains?

With the arrival of both Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield as the Spideys of the other universes, the entertainment doubled and also gave us the chance to see them together. I liked the onscreen chemistry that was built between the three. The screenwriting on them was wonderful and heart-touching. It was absolutely fun to watch them trying to understand each other. What an exciting moment that was when Garfield’s Spider-Man saves MJ.

No Way Home has plot issues but also has one of the best continuities of the universe. The film carries too much forced-comedy that tears the thick lines of the writing in the first half but the film also gave us the moments that were essential to make a superhero film genuine like Peter’s character development that I wrote in length above, the chemistry of three Spideys, Aunt May‘s death, Peter-MJ final moments at Liberty and then in the shop.

What is Tom’s Peter’s future in MCU now? There is every possibility that Tom’s Peter will return in the future. If Tobey at 46 and Garfield at 38 can return with an idea, so can Tom who is just 25. Kevin Feige should put a brake on this Peter for some years and introduce Miles Morales. Miles will be heavily inspired by Peter’s heroics and become like him just like Clint‘s inspiration on Kate in Hawkeye. I will ask for Miles’ introduction in a separate Disney+ show where Tom can appear for a minor supporting role.

Spider-Man: No Way Home is a superb entertainer and has moved in the right direction.

Ratings: 8.3/10

Film Review: Licorice Pizza (2021)

So I am writing about someone who himself is some institute of filmmaking, Paul Thomas Anderson. Looking at the plethora of critical acclaim his films earn every time his new work is presented, I waited this moment to watch his latest venture, Licorice Pizza. And I knew the spark is there, the spark is just there.

Two hours of beautiful feeling and those instincts of cold whispers amongst young bloods that brood or shroud the gospel of emotions from head to toe. A kind of blue-ish feeling when a young boy Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman) and a girl Alana Kane (Alana Haim) meet each other first time and try to reason the birth of those unaccomplished meetings. We have watched trillions of times but there is a way to make young kids take their chances, accept or refuse, make a joke out of it, or make a point out of all seriousness. Paul made us feel that in some boozy vibrance. A magnitude of spectacle.

The warmth of the chemistry proceeds like the flourishing pinnacle. The relation leads to thick surprises and their excitement being together is the epitome of the symphony. Even when they are not together, impatience grows. I felt a lot, a bloody lot, when Gary and Alana phone each other and say nothing. The depth of the story surprises and gives its whataboutery of awkwardness. I embrace the entirety of the intense moment when the cops arrest Gary from nowhere; what a spectacular shot when Alana runs and tells him not to worry, and the handcuffed Gary stares at her like a d***head.

Licorice Pizza also tests the complicated relationship in some situational comic moments that also occurs out of nowhere because life is so uncertain. Alana grabs the opportunity to gather with big boys and make Gary feel. The whole change in shift to the restaurant and that silly stunt was necessary as the story assumed that humans, in all complications, can reach different places reasoning and finding their own identity until they slip and realize. A kind of this scene may have never appealed but Paul’s writing about the complicated relationship of two confused kids was berzerk.

How smartly the gas issue was raised?! The film portrays California of 1973 and OPEC‘s oil embargo also occurred the same year. Bradley Cooper as John Peters was so perfect! Very impressive soundtracks were played. The Mikado hotel reference also hints that Paul did this on purpose to show the early years of the first Japanese restaurant in San Fernando Valley that approves meticulous writing. And why not? After all, Paul’s film aesthetics are usually centered around San Fernando Valley.

I loved the onscreen pairing of amateur actors, Cooper and Alana. Looking at their personalities and stature, they do not remind you of some ideal figures but the story of common people. Both made their debuts and how impressive were they. For Paul, this was a friendly project as Cooper is the son of late Philip Seymour Hoffman and Alana is an established music celebrity from the pop-rock band Haim for whom Paul has directed many music videos.

If the audience has ever loved Paul’s Boogie Nights, they will definitely love watching Licorice Pizza. Talk about a coming-of-age, raw buildup of young relations, desperate attempts of making money, and a few more, Licorice Pizza is an exceptional masterpiece.

Ratings: 8.8/10

Film Review: The King’s Man (2021)

The King’s Man is the third chapter in the Kingsman series of films that takes the audience more than a hundred years back to present what were the causes and factors involved that gave birth to the Kingsman organization. Directed by the same guy, Michael Vaughn, this film touches on so many important political events that happened before, during, and after World War I.

The Kingsman films are basically a comic book series ‘Kingsman‘ written by Mark Millar and the artwork by Dave Gibbons. Kingsman is so far consisting of three parts, starting with ‘The Secret Service‘ of 6 issues. Then ‘The Big Exit‘ which is only 1 issue. And then ‘The Red Diamond‘ of 6 issues. Keeping in mind, Mark Millar gave birth to Kingsman in 2012 and Michael Vaughn picked the literature in 2014; so the Kingsman franchise in all formats has made steady progress in just 10 years.

Rhys Ifans as Rasputin in 20th Century Studios’ THE KING’S MAN. Photo credit: Peter Mountain. © 2020 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

History has been one of my favorite subjects. Therefore, time-traveling with Kingsman to one of the most important political events in history was necessary. Of course, the events were not historically accurate. Hitler didn’t kill the Tsars, Mata Hari didn’t seduce Woodrow Wilson, Rasputin wasn’t a fighter, and many more.

There may be two reasons for these inaccuracies. One is that Michael Vaughn took the liberty to present the film with such theatrical license to become how the history would look like to build a purpose of giving birth to an organization.

The other reason is maybe this is how the original source of the comic book series is written. And if that is so, then the historical inaccuracy does not become a problem because the writer has the liberty to present his/her audience the way he/she wants to write a fictional story on a real event. There is no argument in that. There are tons and tons of fictional novels based on real events and that is completely okay. If anyone still has any objection, let me drop this to you, Joker was once Iran’s representative to the United Nations *cough*.

One more fact that we need to acknowledge is that Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons themselves are the executive producers of all three Kingsman films. So no one should have any problem with any portion of the story if the Gods of that universe are the ones financing these films.

Michael Vaughn’s direction was quite different than the previous two installments. But I must say, the direction was pretty complex in the middle of the film. I felt the film was deliberately running fast, they have to catch the train and reach the platform where the organization will come into existence. But also, Michael Vaughn usually paces the screenplay.

The casting of this film is so elite and perfect. Ralph Fiennes in the leading role as the Duke of Oxford was marvelous thought. He perfectly suits a franchise like Kingsman. Tom Hollander! I mean what a smart and intelligent pick for the triple role of Tsar, Wilhelm, and George. Giving such heavy roles to the same actor was funny and clever as two of the three, Tsar and George were identical. To my utter shock, Rasputin is played by Rhys Ifans. Never imagined him being Rasputin. What a thought! He looked so Rasputin in superb makeup. And I found this Rasputin in physical presence better than Ben Cartwright‘s in the limited series, The Last Czars.

And then the fast action sequences, that have been important elements of Michael Vaughn’s filmography, will not disappoint. Rasputin’s fighting was fun to watch, I was laughing at this action sequence because Rasputin was fighting with elements of Russian folk dance.

Maybe the film is not appreciated because of the complex direction in the middle of the film and is quite different than the first two Kingsman films. But I recognize the importance of this film and I think it was quite alright. I liked the idea of how one evil sent his followers to bring hell on the global powers. This film is extremely political and may also be the reason that Kingsman fans showed less fondness as compared to the other two. But I believe, this film stays untouched by the graceful aesthetics and makes no harm in this Kingsverse. With the development in the mid-credit scene, I wait for its continuity.

Ratings: 8.2/10

Film Review: CODA (2021)

CODA is an acronym for a ‘Child of Deaf Adult‘. That means an individual who was raised by one or two parents/guardians who were deaf. So this coming-of-age film is about Ruby Rossi (Emilia Jones) whose ambition is to become a singer. But the problem is the lifetime dependency of her deaf family who is reluctant to continue living their life on their own, without her support.

When I understood the plot, I realized I have watched an old film with a similar plot. It was none other than Sanjay Leela Bhansali‘s Khamoshi: The Musical. But Khamoshi’s story was also similar to a German film Jenseits der Stille that was actually released a few months after Khamoshi. So, was Khamoshi an original story? CODA itself is an official remake of French film La Famille Bélier.

So, for me, the story is ordinary. But CODA is all about the execution of the story that is blessed with an impressive screenplay and extraordinary performances by many major characters, especially Rubi’s father Frank played by Troy Kotsur. There are several scenes where the family’s deafness and sign language performance are done so well. And there are scenes that build a lot of attention for the audience like Ruby’s music teacher Mr. V (Eugenio Derbez) working hard on Ruby’s vocal cords, especially that pressing on little-dog-big-dog-exercise.

The beauty of CODA also is that the film grows on its audience. Note when the parents struggle to understand their daughter’s performance and observe the clapping and behavior of other listeners, or when Frank feels her neck when she sings, or when Ruby sings with sign language in the hall. Yes, the film is pretty slow but I think this subject in a coming-of-age film needed to be slow-paced.

CODA needs a quick visit to enjoy some astonishingly brilliant performances as deaf characters. A fabulous tone for coming-of-age needs a reminder to the audience that there are CODAs who face difficulties and get bullied, and they need help.

Ratings: 7.5/10