"Dreams feel real while we're in them. It's only when we wake up that we realize something was actually strange." -Inception

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

First Look: Pixar's Latest Short "Sanjay's Super Team"

(Photo: Disney/Pixar)
Pixar has had a long and grandstanding tradition of continuing to make short films alongside their extremely successful feature films. The latest short due to join Pixar's Hall of Fame is Sanjay's Super Team which will open in front of The Good Dinosaur in November. Directed by Pixar animator and artist Sanjay Patel, the short has been inspired by Patel's own experiences growing up as an Indian-American in California.

Sanjay's Super Team follows a little boy Sanjay growing closer to his father when he is performing a puja (a Hindu prayer ceremony) by re-imagining the ancient Gods appearing like superheroes in his daydream. Patel told the LA Times that he made the short largely because he wanted other children growing up to see themselves in Sanjay.  "If I could, I would go back to the 1980s and give my younger self this short. I want to normalize and bring a young brown boy's story to the pop culture zeitgeist."

Sanjay's Super Team, lasting around seven minutes, will first premiere at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival which is held in France every year. 

First Look: Jared Leto as the Joker

(Photo: David Ayer)

When I first heard the news that Jared Leto had been cast as the Joker in DC's Suicide Squad, my first thought was how are we ever going to forget Heath Ledger's iconic performance and look? I'm sure the actor and filmmakers probably had the same thought in their head which is why in the first look of Leto's Joker was released by directed David Ayer, the character has taken a whole 360 degree turn from Nolan's The Dark Knight. 

With several disturbing tattoos all over his body, the most prominent being the word 'damaged' over his forehead, Leto's Joker look retains little of the purple and green which has dominated the costumes of previous Jokers. Gone is the clownish makeup as well, instead what remains is the extremely fit yet crazed Joker ready to join the rest of super villains. What do you think of the Joker's new look? Will you still remember Ledger or reserve judgement until Suicide Squad releases in theatres on August 5, 2015?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Movie Review: Margarita, with a Straw

In the past few years, the Indian film scene has changed dramatically. Bollywood is still king and rules the box-office, but somehow running parallel are these small films with big heart that are penetrating through and reaching its audience. Margarita, with a Straw is one such film.

The film is the story of a young girl, Laila Kapoor (Kalki Koechlin), living in Delhi with her parents and younger brother. Laila is an aspiring writer who likes to pour her feelings into song lyrics. She likes being with her family and friends. She also happens to have cerebral palsy. In any other movie, this would have been drawn out and melodramatic (yes, Black, we're looking at you!). But here in this film, Laila is given her own voice and that's an extremely refreshing to view.

Only recently have heroine-oriented films begun to take centre stage (see Queen, The Dirty Picture, Kahaani). And for Margarita, with a Straw to have a young female lead who's also differently abled is proof that all kinds of characters can inhabit Indian cinema, and judging by the size of the audience in the theater I was watching, the audience is eager to see and know more.

Laila is able to have a normal upbringing mostly due to her loving parents. She's especially close with her mother Aai (Revathy) who encourages Laila to be herself. When a crush on her friend Nima (Tenzin Dalha) leaves Laila brokenhearted, Aai insists that she pursue her dreams of a creative writing course at New York University. In New York, both mother and daughter see a different side to life.

I read a review of this film which wondered why Laila's enlightenment had to take place in India. The answer was right there on the screen. Unfortunately, India is woefully inadequate when it comes to taking care of and incorporating the differently abled in the public sphere. Aamir Khan's show Satyamev Jayate did a wonderful episode dedicated to that very problem in his first season.

The reason why Laila's enlightenment happened in a city like New York was because she was just another citizen. She could board the bus by herself, do her own shopping or even attend a bar with her friend. Compare that to her humiliation at being carried up the stairs of her own school like a piece of furniture because the school lift perpetually doesn't work. Laila needed the experience of being in a city like New York to further blossom.

Laila also discovers who she really is by exploring her sexuality, first with a Pakistani-Bangleshi activist Khanum (Sayani Gupta) who happens to be blind, and later with her British classmate Jared (William Moseley). The story moves back to Delhi for the latter half where it gets a bit confusing when secrets revealed lead to further conflict but still the film never wavers about who Laila continues to be.

Margarita, with a Straw won the NETPAC award World or International Asian Film Premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in 2014. The film is filled with great honest moments of Laila with her mother, with her friends and just being herself. While uneven at times, the film is forthright, funny and heartfelt, especially in the performances of Revathy and Koechlin. Their bond as mother and daughter rings true onscreen. If you are looking for distinct and unique voices in Indian cinema, do make it point to seek out Margarita, with a Straw.

Directed by Shonali Bose and Nilesh Maniyar; Co-written by Shonali Bose and Nilesh Maniyar; Hindi Dialogue by Atika Chohan; Cinematography by Anne Misawa; Edited by Monisha R Baldawa and Bob Brooks; Music by Mike McCleary


Monday, April 27, 2015

Movie Review: Avengers: Age of Ultron

Avengers: Age of Ultron begins without much preamble, dropping us right into the action. There are no individual superhero entrances this time around. The Avengers are a team or so the world thinks, and they are there to protect the Earth against all evil forces, alien or human. But the challenge in this thrilling sequel to The Avengers is neither alien or human. Instead they are faced with an A.I. out to ruin them all.

The key to enjoying Marvel's Cinematic Universe films is to remember that they're all connected. The movies and TV shows all borrow heavily from the comic books in which all the characters are created. So if you saw last year's Captain America: Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy and followed Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and Agent Carter, you'd know that the evil group Hydra had infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D. breaking it down to its core. Only a few remain dedicated to the real purpose of keeping the world safe. The Avengers are part of the few and dedicated, only in this film their methods of getting that done comes into question.

After recovering Loki's staff from Hydra and running into new Enhanced entrants to the films (the Wonder Twins,  Pietro and Wanda Maximoff), the Avengers return back to Stark Tower thinking that the battle has been won. Wrong, the water has gotten murky.  The science brothers Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) decide, on Stark's urging, that the Ultron program must be put to the test now that the staff is in their hands. Loki's staff, in case you've forgotten from the first film, contains one part of the famed Infinity stones given to him by Thanos. Control them all and you control the universe. Remember this, it will come in handy during future films.

The result of this unnecessary human meddling is the birth of Ultron (voiced by James Spader) who doesn't want to do the bidding of Avengers and wants to get rid of them altogether. As expected, this puts the Avengers at a crossroads. Steve aka Captain America (Chris Evans) and Tony have differing viewpoints on how to handle this. And after taking a beating going up against Ultron, Pietro (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen), the Avengers regroup at a safe house.

There are loads of revelations in this film. Each of the Avengers has hidden secrets and pasts they're not ready to confront. When up against evil forces, they are united but we've been given a sense that it won't last long. There are new recruits to the Avengers team and it looks like they might last. The Avengers, eventually, are just a unit of superheroes. It's not supposed to matter who's in it as long as they're together and can vanquish evil.

The newest recruit (literally, he was born yesterday!) is The Vision (Paul Bettany) who's a fascinating addition to the team. His introduction is the standout scene of the film. The film has way too many characters and each one is given a moment. It would be wonderful to linger on the Hulk (who really does need his own proper movie - the first two don't count!) and even Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) to figure out where they're coming from. But this movie is the link to what happens in the next upcoming Marvel films. Stay tuned to Captain America: Civil War where all will be revealed, it seems to hint.

This film is also the last time where Joss Whedon will be directing a Marvel film. The success of the first Avengers allowed directors like James Gunn and the Russo brothers to be signed onto the Marvel universe. His unique voice will definitely be missed in future films. The actors playing the Avengers seem to be at it for so long that playing their alter ego comes naturally to them, especially Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark. However, the real star of this film is CGI effects. Over 3000 of them!

The battle sequences are insane and take place all over the world. Thank you for sparing New York, Joss, I bet it's still recovering from the last one. Ultron and his army of lookalikes, the Hulk, the Hulk Buster, the Vision and Wonder Twins' abilities all loom larger with the amazing effects. The Avengers was extra-special because it was the first time you saw a superhero movie with such a grand scale all together on the same screen. Since then, many have tried to duplicate that, even this film, but nothing can really come close. I'm sure most of you out there will be watching but Avengers: Age of Ultron is really for the fans for the overall Marvel Cinematic Universe, stay tuned for the next chapter!

Written and Directed by Joss Whedon; Based on the characters created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee; Cinematography by Ben Davis; Editing by Jeffrey Ford and Lisa Lassek; Music by Brian Tyler and Danny Elfman

Additional cast: Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Samuel L. Jackson, Cobie Smulders, Linda Cardellini, Anthony Mackie, Hayley Atwell, Idris Elba, Stellan Skarsgard, Claudia Kim, Thomas Kretschmann, Andy Serkis, Julie Delpy


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Around the World in Posters: Jurassic World, The Walk, Dil Dhadakne Do

It's been quite a while since we've gone around the world with posters, but with all the summer films gearing up for release, I found some posters that have caught my fancy. Let's have a look.

Jurassic World wants to scare the crap out of us with these enormous, and I mean, enormous dinosaurs inhabiting the park in the latest sequel.  

 This view from The Walk featuring Joseph Gordon-Levitt takes us over the edge.

Channing Tatum is back to the grind in this poster from Magic Mike XXL.

Melissa McCarthy channels Goldfinger in this new Spy poster.

The Bella Bardens get up close and personal in the Russian poster for Pitch Perfect 2.

The Japanese poster of Tomorrowland shows the past and present coming together in the futuristic city.

And finally, on the heels of its first trailer, Dil Dhadakne Do revealed two new posters featuring the ensemble cast.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

New trailer: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

"Tell me, do you bleed? You will... " A very grim Batman informs Superman as the first trailer of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ends. Director Zack Synder's follow up to 2013's Man of Steel brings together two frenemies, Batman (Ben Affleck) and Superman (Henry Cavill) going up against each other for the first time. This film has huge expectations for Warner Bros., not just because they are pitting two iconic characters in a battle on the big screen, but also since the film will lay the groundwork for upcoming DC Universe films featuring Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Flash and more.

Going up against rival studios Marvel and Disney who have already shown immense success with their superhero and franchise films, Warner Bros. needs this film to work badly. It's already been delayed from this year's summer release schedule. But one hopes this will be for the betterment of the film. This current trailer released early by a few days since the trailer leaked online. Competing with the other big trailer release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the studio had no choice but to make it official.

There aren't too much shots in the trailer of the friendly foes fighting each other but instead a lot of discontent piling up against the outsider Superman in the form of voice overs of cast members Holly Hunter and Jeremy Iron . A statue of Superman has the words 'False God' graffitied onto the famous logo. We finally get a glimpse of the very beefed up Batman (Affleck) who I'm assuming is coming out of retirement to face Superman. He does not look happy. There's a lot of anger and resentment under the surface here. We have to assume this is not the same Batman from Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy. Whatever happened to Bruce Wayne? I guess we'll find out more when Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice releases on March 25, 2016. The cast also features Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa, Jesse Einsenberg and Laurence Fishburne.

Friday, April 17, 2015

New Trailer: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

This Christmas... just seeing those words onscreen made it actually real that by the end of this year, we'll have a brand new Star Wars film featuring some beloved characters and some which we have privately and publicly speculated quite a bit.

The newest trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens was released with much fanfare. The event was hyped online at the Star Wars Celebration panel where producer Kathleen Kennedy, director JJ Abrams and most of the cast (Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Anthony Daniels and minus ailing cast member Harrison Ford) assembled to introduce to the world, the next chapter in the Star Wars saga.

The new trailer really feels like the next generation is taking over and as Abrams himself clarified at the trailer launch, this latest film will be the story of the three leads, Poe Dameron, Rey and Finn having new adventures.  Then Luke Skywalker himself talks about the Force being strong in his family and possibly referring to his offspring having it too! And the last shot where old buds Chewbacca and Han Solo make an appearance, declaring that 'they're home'. I think I would have pretty much lost it if I had been at that panel. Talk about having all the feels! The countdown to Christmas starts now. May the Force be with you!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

First Cast Photo: Suicide Squad

While Marvel's got its Phase 2 lineup ready for the screen with three films out this year (Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant-Man and The Fantastic Four), the DC Universe will make us wait another year for the eventual showdown between Batman and Superman. Also arriving in 2016 is Suicide Squad, the third instalment of the DC shared universe.

(Photo: David Ayer)
Director David Ayer (Fury) posted a photo from the first cast read through.  Suicide Squad's cast includes Will Smith as Deadshot (very excited about this!), his Focus co-star Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, Jai Courtney as Captain Boomerang, Joel Kinnaman as Rick Flagg, Cara Delevingne as Enchantress, Karen Fukuhara as Plastique, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Killer Croc, and Viola Davis as Agent Amanda Waller. Ike Barinholtz, Jim Parrack and Adam Beach also join the cast as Hugo Strange, Deathstroke and Ravan respectively.

So, who's missing from the above photo? Noticeably, it's Jared Leto's Joker.  The Oscar winner shed his beautiful long locks for this role and we got a brief glimpse at him taking on the iconic role inhabited memorably by the late Heath Ledger. Ayer also teased the image on Twitter. While Suicide Squad is due to release on August 5, 2016, the anticipation for the film (with its large star cast) has already begun.

(Photo: David Ayer)

First Cast Photo: Beauty and the Beast

A photo posted by Josh Gad (@joshgad) on

Now here's an unlikely group getting together for some fun. Disney's next live action remake, Beauty and the Beast, features actors from different fandoms coming together.  Harry Potter's Emma Watson is Belle, Downton Abbey's Dan Stevens is the Beast, Fast & Furious' Luke Evans is Gaston while Frozen's Josh Gad is Le Fou, Gaston's sidekick.  Kevin Kline, who's also in the picture, plays Belle's father Maurice. The picture was taken by Josh Gad and is featured on his Instagram. Directed by Bill Condon (Dreamgirls) and co-written by Stephen Chbosky (The Perks of Being a Wallflower), Beauty and the Beast will release March 2017.  

New Trailer: Dil Dhadakne Do

Writer-director Zoya Akhtar's Zindagi Na Milegi Dobaara made you want to pack up your bags and take a looooong Spanish holiday.  Will her upcoming film Dil Dhadakne Do make you want to do the same on a cruise ship? I'm certainly game to know more.

Featuring an all-star cast with Anil Kapoor, brother Farhan Akhtar, Priyanka Chopra, Anushka Sharma, Ranveer Singh and Shefali Shah, the film's first trailer takes us behind the public facade of a family, the Mehras.

The Mehras, along with a few close family friends, take off on a cruise to Turkey and Greece.  With the parents are celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary, their children Ayesha (Chopra) and Kabir (Singh) are venturing off on adventures of their own.  Will Kabir settle down and marry the girl of his parents' choice? Or is the new girl Farah he meets on the trip the one? Will Ayesha divorce her husband and reconnect with an old friend Sunny (Akhtar)? We'll find out this and much more when the film releases on June 5th, 2015.

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