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Dangal (2016)

Great film, but not for the reasons you might think A wrestler with potential and big dreams; to make the country he loved proud. Despite his best efforts he did not succeed but he did not give up. One day he aspired to have a son to follow his footsteps.

He did get married but to his (pre-conceived) misfortune he had two daughters, thus leaving his dream of a son who would become a world class wrestler in tatters. Of course, this was to change when one day his daughters got involved in an altercation with a boy and "properly" punished him for misbehaving. This was his epiphany: the fact that he had daughters should not be an impediment to his lifelong dream of having a progeny that would end up being a champion.

That was also the moment, the tragedy for his two daughters begun. Without any consideration for their wants or needs, he begun to groom them for a life of professional wrestling and international glory. Those girls were not asked or considered, they were forced since the only thing that mattered was daddy's dreams. The fact that they were robbed of their childhood was immaterial. Mahavir Singh Phogat just did not care; gold metal was on his mind.

The girls grew up biologically but not emotionally; the fear and need for dad's approval never went away. Even as they progressed in the sports world all their strife was about pleasing dad. It never went away.

This film is a brilliant portrayal of child abuse covered in success. A determined person with no resistance from a submissive spouse went on to take over the lives of his children and formed them in his own resemblance.

Sure, there were successes. The girls became champions, won medals and some will say their father never stopped believing in them when in fact he never ceased to believe in his own sporting ambitions using his children as vehicle. He even buttress it as women's right going so far as to say "no one should say a girl cannot do what a boy can do" or "they would have ended up housewives performing chores". Anything to make himself feel better and justify the emotional robbery he performed on his children.

A brilliant and highly poignant and emotional film, made me want to jump to the screen and rescue Geeta and Babita.

Let's Be Cops (2014)

Let's be something we are not, how about that? Two friends, utterly fed up with their underachieving lives, have an epiphany where during a costume party they dress as cops and the reactions of strangers who are unaware that they are phonies give them a sense of authority and gravity, not to mention a much needed sense of actually being needed for something.

It is all well and good but it is a lie, a total charade. At least the rational of the duo points out early on whilst the light-hearted other half is not prepared to relinquish the sense of authority his new outfit has given him and is prepared to go all the way in order to convince himself and everyone else around him that he can be a cop.

Little did they know about what being a policeman entails and when they encounter a gang of dangerous criminals they realise they have bitten much more than they could chew.

This is a light hearted comedy through and through. It is agreeable from start to finish without ever reaching any highs. The story trends from the hardly believable to the outright unbelievable which is made up by the originality of the two main characters who were driven by an urgent need for change.

Lucy (2014)

Unreached potential One of man's perennial questions is 'what if we could use 100% of our brain capabilities' and this is the main thrust of this film.

Since it is based on a scientific assumption, this is a science fiction movie that treads on a rather thin line. The truth is we don't know, empirically, how much of our brain we use and neither can we tell what it would be like if we reached 100% so the makers of this movie took a huge creative leap with rather mixed results.

Don't get me wrong on the whole, it is a decent experience, well made, and at times rather intense. Nonetheless its story has holes on several levels.

It doesn't get off on a promising start due to a prolonged incoherent dialogue between a guy and a girl where somehow the girl is forced to make a delivery unaware of the significance of the importance of the content she delivered. Now, you get a gang that invests a lot of money to develop a unique mind enhancing drug, so how come they decided to test it on a random girl rather than in a controlled environment?

From the moment Lucy is caught up, the story flies off from there with several gaps which rather grow that get covered culminating in a very bizarre climax.

Concluding, this is a theme with plenty of potential but goes nowhere near reaching it. The sci-fi aspect, largely conceals the action and thriller elements of this movie and in a detrimental fashion too.

The F Word (2013)

A romantic comedy with substance Can men and women really be friends? Whilst history and experience tells for most people that it is possible it is not however always the case.

This tale, like most such has very ordinary beginnings. A guy meets a girl at a party whom he is attracted to, however she lives with her long term boyfriend. He initially throws away her number, their paths cross again and they stay in touch this time.

He decides to play along the 'friends' part and even seems to be working...somehow.

With the passing of time however their feelings grow and it becomes harder to conceal them yet they try to convince themselves and their common friends that they are just buddies. This cannot go on forever as important life choices ought to be made and if these choices are made on the assumption that they are nothing but friends, it is one thing nonetheless if they are to be more than friends it is quite another.

My favourite bit of this film is the slow built up of the acquaintance, attraction, infatuation. The usual "we fancy one another, jump to bed and then try to figure it out" did not apply to this story and all the better for it.

A rom-com with a heart, and whilst the predictable story elements of such genre were well present its quirky wit and slow development make it a stand out of recent romantic comedies.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014)

A great sequel (yes, they do exist) Sin city is back and what a delight it was.

Trending on a rather familiar path that of good versus the bad, in this instalment it seems is the turn of the romantics. Men of this city who are prepared to go all the way for the girls they like, even if it means death. On the exterior they might appear as rough and tough but they undoubtedly possess a tender side.

However, in sin city there's more than romantic, kind hearted men. The other side is filthy rich, decadent people whose greed and pride has blinded then to the point where murder is routine if it means aims are achieved.

The meeting point of good and evil is a strip joint where the girls are seen as angels by some and a piece of meat for others.

With a look and feel very similar to the original, with its moody conversations, the seeking of pleasure, the highly artistic cinematography dealing with the filth of sin city in a game of life and death, this movie is a trip and a joy to watch.

Deliver Us from Evil (2014)

A very decent horror movie Real life crime chasers, encounter supernatural forces.

During a routine call, an officer responds to a domestic violence call and quickly enough he realises that this case is linked with other violent offences all of whom appear to have one thing in common: an element of inexplicability about them. Whether the injuries were horrific, or a display of superhuman strength from the part of the perpetrators, an unusual link develops.

With the said policeman trying to best assist those affected and solve those crimes, following standard protocol the story proceeds on his initial assumption that any notion of a supernatural is plain nonsense despite the occurrence of curious incidents.

As a horror film, it does rather well. There is a lot of tension building up from the start which will keep the audience well engaged. The action is more than enough to keep it going and the humorist adrenaline junkie aka one half of the police duo is a welcome insertion into the story.

In addition to the very good cinematography, one thing that in a way makes this stand out is the fact that it is based on a true story. Regardless whether one believes or not in the supernatural element, it cannot be denied that such stories do occur and this adds some extra gravitas.

All in all, an effective horror/thriller that will not disappoint.

Into the Storm (2014)

Great effects, weak human element. A story about a storm and the people caught up in it. As perhaps ought to be expected this takes place in an uneventful town in the lives of some very ordinary people, which is a plus as you do not need the setting of New York or Los Angeles in order to create impact.

The local school is all geared up for the graduation ceremony, the weather report arrives indicating a storm is on the way but the principal decides to go ahead with it. As a parallel to the main story, there is a team of storm chasers who record and document storms for a living.

The background is set and we all are in anticipation mode for the storm, with the said anticipation being conveyed in a rather effective manner.

As far as the main event goes, this film will not disappoint. The effects are impressive, the destruction caused is very widespread and the storm is nasty and mighty. One can observe the sheer scale of catastrophe and how man is utterly unprepared to deal with such a force with the only options being to get away or find a very, very secure location.

Having said that, I will stop short from calling this film amazing due to some elements of the story being rather too predictable. Without giving too much away, when the local boy found himself with his girl crush on an abandoned warehouse just when the storm hit was not exactly an inspiring moment. Equally, when the vehicle of the storm chaser got caught up in the twister he finds himself elevated above the clouds and even gets a moment of admiring for the view. Again, not very stirring.

A good disaster movie, that excels on the disaster side of the story but does not score high on the human element bit.

The Congress (2013)

Great idea, a foiled execution A formerly famous actress who lost it all through poor choices she made has one more chance. A large studio offers to clone and copy her, make lots of movies and TV series with her whilst pay her very generously at the same time.

There is a catch however; she will have no say in the choices the studio will make on her behalf.

So far, so kind of good. The story is unusual and were genuinely intrigued as to where it will lead.

From the moment she agreed despite her reservations (she was not exactly enthusiastic about being cloned although the lack of other offers forced her hand) the story took a turn from which it never recovered.

Fast forward 20 years, she goes to attend a conference and she suddenly enters an animated world where we remained clueless as to what was real, hallucination, present or past. This remained the case until the end credits.

A creative idea that lost its way and when the audience starts talking to one another or checking out their phones it is clear this film has failed in its aim.

Hector and the Search for Happiness (2014)

For the seekers A psychiatrist in need of...therapy.

Hector seems to have the perfect life. A good job, an amazing girlfriend, an orderly life. Yet, something seems to be missing. Though a successful psychiatrist, he struggles to advice his clients as to what makes one happy.

So, he decides to travel the world in order to find out what happiness is. His journey takes him to Asia, Africa and the States in a whirlwind of experiences not to mention new found knowledge and wisdom.

On the hole, it is a pleasant and cheerful experience. In a way, Hector speaks for many of us who wish we could just drop everything and get on a plane so that we can find ourselves. He searches for happiness, which is so complex and means different things to different people.

A worthwhile experience for the seekers out there.

Metegol (2013)

Good visuals, but that's it In a small town, the local pub is everyone's meeting point and for a young boy the plastic football game is his whole world. As with all boys, he had to deal with bullies and in a heated exchange he defeated the town's bully who swore to avenge this.

With the passing of time, the town's bully became rich and famous but the bitterness never subsided so he plans to take over this little town and destroy the pub in which he as defeated by what he considered a nobody. The boy who defeated him, is not prepared to sit and take it but will fight to the end to protect his home town.

On the whole, the story had cracks and was uninteresting so one ought not expect lots of excitement. The only compensation came from the good animation with a sense of seeing the world through the eyes of a young idealistic person.

The Rover (2014)

Welcome to the human jungle We find ourselves in a lawless land. Without any explanation as to how it got to be as is, it is quickly established that laws have become lax and every person owns a gun to protect themselves as some kind of human jungle has come to prevail.

The story focuses on one man. His car is stolen by a group of bandits and tries to get it back. During an encounter he makes clear that he is prepared to die to get back his car. The reason remains hidden. After being knocked out the rest of the film is about this man's pursuit of the bandits.

In this wild, gun ho world, he makes an unlikely ally in the form of a half-witted young man. It is a battle for survival with the occasional moments of human interaction, moments that occur under the auspices of basic instincts where death could occur at any given moment.

Appropriately filmed in a desert-like area this is a visceral experience with enough rawness that is engaging and stimulating.

In a world where animal instincts are allowed to prevail, how can one survive, trust and move forward?

The Expendables 3 (2014)

Plenty of muscle with little testosterone The boys are back, or so it seems. Are they or aren't they?

The film opens with the team in action. A high risk operation is well under way and a prestigious prisoner is rescued. Following the successful recovery, an old foe comes back to the scene and injures a team member seriously. This has to be reciprocated.

Then, a big hole was dug in the stomach of this action film. Sly decides to axe his team out of concern they would not survive this revenge mission (as if they did not know that each mission could be their last) and begins a quest to replace them with newer. This resulted in watching an action film minus the action.

The new team caries out a quickie mission gets captured and Sly tries to recover them. Then guess what? The original team which he dismissed before appeared on the runway and all of a sudden he had a change of heart.

After a very long gap, action did resume and it was worthwhile although it arrived after we were worn out due to extended inactivity.

You have a decent story with the added touch of the personal antagonism, an enviable cast list (Stallone, Statham, Snipes, Schwarzenegger, Banderas, Gibson, Ford, Li) and end up somehow making an action film with not so much action.

Wish there was more ambition involved in the process.

Planes: Fire & Rescue (2014)

Missed the mark The story revolves around Dusty a lovely plane who learns he cannot race anymore as his engine is about to burst. Not one to give up he tries to prove he can still be useful.

Whilst it is admirable for one to not lose spirits in the face of adversity the way this has been displayed in this animating adventure has proved ineffective.

Dusty comes across as a stubborn plane who in his refusal to accept he is damaged and stay put manages to constantly endanger himself as well as other planes. There is a failed attempt, a telling off, then another incident and another etc... Given he cannot race he opts for becoming a fire-fighter but the problems remain, his engine is not up to the task. More failed attempts and endangerment.

Whereas the spectacle/cinematography is acceptable the moral of the story falls short and given how the cinema was filled with youngsters something tells me it did not convey a very poignant message.

The Inbetweeners 2 (2014)

An agreeable, youthful comedy The 4 lads are back for one more adventure.

This instalment finds the boys going all the way to Australia to find one of the group who convinced them that he is doing really well, gets lots of girls etc. Well, you get the picture.

Upon arrival they discover that all this was just a big baloney and their buddy is a toilet supervisor who lives in a tent. Given that they went halfway across the world, they decided they could as well try to make the most of the experience.

On surface, it is not a bad story and the boys did a decent job overall. Of course the word decent is not used tentatively. The humour was for the most part tired, some scenes were gross which cannot have been necessary although the experience overall was pleasant without (almost) reaching hilarious level.

Overall, it is an agreeable, youthful comedy about a group of friends who cannot help but be themselves no matter what.

The House of Magic (2013)

Let the magic take charge The story of the abandoned cat whose cruel owner dumps him when they move house.

Alone and unprotected the lovely cat faces a difficult challenge for survival and as he wanders the streets manages to enter a house that had already other animals in it as well as various gadgets. The owner embraces him instantly but some of the other guests are reluctant to accept him and so he has to earn their trust.

The opportunity to do so will come as a wicked nephew wants to sell the house.

An appealing story combined with high quality visuals, giving us an angle of the world from the point of view of a small animal. Various themes are involved such as abandonment, new beginnings, fitting in and proving oneself.

When it comes to protecting our home, one better not underestimate the determination of even the smallest of opponents.

It will surely delight children without leaving the adults unimpressed either.

Step Up All In (2014)

Some good vibes but rather corny The latest in the series sees pretty much a similar story.

A group starts together, the morale quickly falls where all but the leader quit. He then has to form another group in order to take part in a potentially life changing competition.

From a certain angle it shows the struggle creatives face to make a living out of their passion which is not easy. During such struggles, many cannot cope thus feeling they have to follow reality and succumb to the pressures whilst others are prepared to go all the way no matter what the consequences are. The leader of this dance group finds encouragement from a Russian immigrant in the US who also faced struggles before succeeding. On that add a sense of the youthful spirit of determinism there is a positive vibe embedded throughout.

Despite its good aspects, it is rather corny and thus falls sort of making any greater impact.

The Nut Job (2014)

As small animals see it... This nut job is not about some crazy dude but literally is a job that involves nuts, plenty of them.

For an animal community in a park it is vital they get enough supply of nuts to get through. When a squirrel is deemed too selfish to share he is ousted and has to survive alone. Being alone however is tough and he has to defend himself against other animals, humans, cars etc.

In the meantime, the rest of the gang need to find a source of nuts and in the process it will become clear who they can trust and who they cannot.

Shot, for the most part, from a bird's eye view we see the world through a small animal's eyes and oh boy what a perspective.

On that add lots of chase scenes and a fierce battle for survival this will not disappoint.

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Great effects with a notable lack of substance From a hospital room where a child witnesses the death of his mother, an alien abduction follows and fast forward some 20 years to the present life of this man in deep trouble. A seemingly ordinary man gets hold of a very valuable object and as a result his life is in great danger as some very important individuals are prepared to go to great lengths to obtain it. In a nutshell, this is the main thrust of the film and it is not hard to observe how it astutely suffers from a very weak storyline.

Who the main protagonists were and how this intergalactic link came to be, it remained largely unknown except the occasional insertion of information as the film developed.

On this note, this movie developed largely out of action scenes which were pretty much a constant. This undoubtedly was its strongest point, plenty of action some of it impressive will keep one engaged despite the gaps in the story. A put off in this was the frequent attachment of the main character to a cassette player that often played romantic songs and to hear that in the middle of space battle as they tried to survive was very anti climactic.

On the whole, this will undoubtedly impress the early teen audience and the die-hard fans of Marvel comics as well as sci-fi enthusiasts. Mindless constant action without a storyline will indubitably be a favourite amongst 13-18 year olds. As for the rest of us, well we'll just have to let ourselves be absorbed by the action and bypass the lack of substance.

Hercules (2014)

Not worthy of this mighty name The demi-god who received the Hollywood treatment and a bad one at that.

Hercules is one of the better known mythic figures and it is only fair and right that when you can get a decent cast and budget approved we are to be expecting a great film. Period!

Let's face it, the fact (well, according to mythology) alone that he completed the 12 labours as well as participated in the retrieval of the golden fleece with the Argonauts would suffice to provide material for a mighty adventure movie, or couple of them.

Instead, the makers of this movie brushed off the 12 labours and made Hercules a mercenary in the paid service of a corrupt king, not to mention made him appear uncertain to the point of insecurity the same person who in the ancient world embodied extraordinary strength and masculinity.

I would not go so far as to call it a bad film, just hardly mediocre. Some good scenes for sure with just a bit of decent action but falls tragically short of expectation.

The Purge: Anarchy (2014)

An interesting theme expanded The second instalment of state sponsored lawlessness. Now it is not usually the case but in this instance the second movie is better than the original.

In the first movie we observed a family trying to protect themselves and it was rather effective in portraying them as utterly helpless.

The second movie brings together the stories of three sets of people. A mother with her daughter, a young couple and a loner. A man who although is anti-purge sets out to take revenge for the loss of his son. En route he witnesses the hopeless struggle of a mother with her daughter as well as a desolate couple and although they are not his concern, he chooses to assist them. This proves a catalyst for everything that followed.

These 12 hours that people are allowed to fully indulge their animal instincts, one can feel sorry for the unfortunate ones who find themselves at their path but at the same time, hopelessness does not have to be ultimate. Some will choose to rise above those animal instinct and use this to further prove that we are human.

An interesting initial concept that has now been expanded and made for a stimulating but also thoughtful experience.

Earth to Echo (2014)

Charming, but you will not be wowed A major construction project is about to demolish several homes in a small town and thus three friends try to figure out how to spend their last night together before they will be forced to move. Meanwhile, a series of encrypted messages led them to ant to investigate their origin.

The obstacles were plenty as it usual is the case when children trying to get past adult acceptance. These guys however, were not quitters. They will use all sorts of creative ways to make their last night together happen.

Whilst this is through and through a children's film, it will not totally alienate adult audiences. My favourite bit was the way it has been filmed; it is as if those youngsters actually made it.

Perhaps it will not be remembered as an all time children's classic although at the same time, it will offer magic, escapism and a new discovery which is more than enough to enchant the audience.

Kick (2014)

A mediocre charmer The story of an adrenaline junkie, a man who would do anything just to get a kick. Quitting jobs, changing girls provides a high he constantly craves.

The movie focuses on the effect he had on a girl whose heart he crushed and the life of crime he pursued afterwards, trying to link the two stories again towards the end of the film.

It started on a low, rather very low as the audience were initially introduced to a live-for-today, party-hard kind of guy. Ineffective humour and exaggerated sound effects made for a not so pleasant experience.

As the plot moved on, it picked itself up and even got me somewhat intrigued. The Lothario had (somehow) become a serial robber and the police was on his tail, what will it happen next?

From the moment the plot was resolved and the hidden cards became revealed, it fell totally flat all the way to the final scene.

All in all this is a relatively charming mediocre experience.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

Let's go ape Humanity's new arch enemy are...primates. But, aren't we their biggest enemy having driven them almost to extinction? in any case, let's go along with the storyline.

Wasting no time in introducing a world where humans became almost extinct due to a man made virus going viral, the story is situated around San Francisco where some human survivors live in close proximity with a well organised group of apes who have evolved sufficiently to think and talk like humans.

It soon becomes clear that the two sides think of one another as enemies and appear ready to launch an aggression, still there are those in both camps who think peace is a more preferred option that hostility. Can these voices prevail though in the midst of an overwhelming desire for full blown clash?

Whilst the built up to the main story was almost instantaneous, it proved effective in creating an atmosphere of tension that remained throughout the film. At almost any moment the audience thinks that mayhem is about to ensue. We follow the voices of peace in an uphill struggle to maintain the fragile peace where you cannot be sure who is the ally or the adversary.

There is also a moral element to this film: as a leader it is sometimes preferable to compromise for the sake of the common good, even if your inner circle does not share that.

Good ambiance, effective action and a tension prevailing throughout makes for a rather edgy two hours on the big screen.

Begin Again (2013)

Bottom then up What does one need when hitting rock bottom? Someone else who touched bottom too.

A disgruntled music producer is going through the worst day of his life, having been fired from the company he founded as well as realising he is not doing a great job as a father also. In an already half intoxicated state he walk into a bar and he hears an unknown singer; suddenly he has hope for the future.

It turns out that the singer that impressed him was in the doldrums as well, having just split up from a long term boyfriend.

This chance encounter leads to a collaboration, thus filling them with a renewed sense of hope for the future. The obstacles are many, the means pretty much non-existent. Still, two people with nothing to lose will find a way and pull few strings to make it happen.

Whilst I can see why it has delighted critics and audiences alike, I do not quite share the prevailing enthusiasm. Don't get me wrong, the main thrust of this (two people who hit bottom trying to pick themselves up) was relatively effective, it is just that a lot of time was devoted to the main characters internal conflicts as opposed to getting a stronger sense of beginning again.

Boyhood (2014)

Bold and brilliant film making "Boyhood" is an experiment in film making. It took Richard Linklater 13 years to fully make it so that he could capture Ellar Coltrane's growing up year after year.

We follow the life of Mason from the age of 5 until the age of 18. In some ways he is a very typical child; his parents split when he was young and hardly saw his father until he was 8. His mother remarry, twice; both were drunks so it did not last.

Mason has a quiet, on the reflective side, demeanour. He observes the grownups around him and does not allow for their downsides to affect him. Early on he develops a distaste for being organised and follow a structured schedule.

He is not alone however. His sister Samantha shares the same experiences and also shaped by them. His mother is pivotal in his life. Despite all of her faults she is totally devoted to giving her children the best upbringing she can. Then of course it is dad, who might have a few loose screws in his head but he loves them unconditionally and never ceases to encourage them. No matter what direction their lives take, they always have remained a family, a unit.

"Boyhood" is an achievement in film making. Not only we experience firsthand the growing up of two special kids but as a film it flows in a velvety smooth pace that allows the audience to be fully part of it. Part drama, part biography this is a gem of a movie and as such should be watched and cherished.

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