Oppo F9: stylish but underpowered

The new Oppo F9 has taken the market by storm. With its one-of-a-kind notch, it certainly looks very unique. It also has very powerful cameras on its front and back. However, a notch and a couple of cameras alone don’t make a good phone great.

Display and appearance

The new Oppo F9 is a very sleek and stylish phone. The F9 is covered in Corning Gorilla Glass 6 on both sides and has a big 6.3-inch IPS LCD screen with minimum screen bezel and a very small water drop notch. The F9 has all the standard sensors you would come to expect, including a fingerprint one on the back.

The Oppo comes in three different colours, and they all look very fashionable. The gradient colour scheme is very unique and really helps the phone stand out amongst its peers. All in all, it’s a phone that wouldn’t be out of place in the hands of a supermodel, as Deepika Padukone has shown already.

Camera

Oppo is the self-proclaimed selfie expert. So it should come as no surprise how powerful its cameras are. The front camera is a whopping 25 megapixels and our testing at launch proved its power. The back cameras are also quite powerful, at 16 and 2 megapixels respectively. Oppo has targeted the selfie-taker with their tagline, so this is only expected.

Pouting is easier with the Oppo F9’s AI assisted mammoth front camera, which has a whopping 25 megapixels.

The Oppo F9 also features AI integration with the cameras. The cameras can automatically pick up what kind of photo you are trying to take and adapts to it. The image quality of the camera can be easily compared with the best in the market right now.

Battery

Another Oppo F9 marketing gimmick has been the fast charging capability of the phone. The Oppo F9 has VOOC technology, which makes charging very quick. In fact, the phone’s tagline claims that the phone can muster 2 hours’ worth of talk time with only 5 minutes of charging.

The Oppo F9 has a 3500 mAh battery, which makes this an impressive claim. It’s safe to say the claim is mostly true – we got 4% of charge in less than a minute.

Chipset and power

So far, the phone has looked quite good. This section is where that changes. With so many premium features packed into a phone that costs a fourth of the average iPhone, some concessions had to be made. The phone packs a very mediocre Mediatek MT6771 Helio P60 chipset.

It does have an octa-core CPU, but it is paired with a Mali-G72 MP3 GPU. This makes the phone considerably less powerful than a flagship should be. The phone comes in 4 and 6 GB RAM variants. Both have 64 GB of internal storage. It has a dedicated slot for memory expansions of up to 256 GB. The Oppo F9 has 4G dual sim capability also.

Verdict

The Oppo F9 has quite a few things going for it. It has really quick charging, and the only phone in the same price range that has similar quick charging is the Lenovo Z5. The display is beautiful with possibly the nicest looking notch we’ve seen yet. The cameras are world class and can go toe to toe with every flagship in the market. The price, at 28,990 and 31,990 BDT for the 4 and 6 GB variants, is pretty low for a flagship quality phone.

Yet, there are some huge shortcomings for the Oppo F9. The power of the phone leaves much to be desired as they seem to be the only ones using Mali GPU’s in this day and age. For casual users and selfie addicts, this is a good phone and comes recommended. However, the mobile gaming community and others who want a lot of power in their phones would find the Oppo F9 to be lacklustre at best.

Chris Hemsworth to star in Netflix movie “Dhaka”… not shot in Dhaka

Chris Hemsworth, better known as Thor from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is set to star in Netflix’ newest film, Dhaka. Before any Thor fans in Bangladesh get too excited, don’t be misled by the title, as the movie will be shot in India and Indonesia.

A Hollywood Reunion

The Hollywood Reporter reports that Dhaka will be a reunion of sorts of for Hemsworth. The movie is produced by Joe and Anthony Russo, a duo that previously worked with Hemsworth in Avengers: Infinity War.

Debuting Director

It will be also written by the Russo brothers. More interestingly, making his directorial debut in this movie is Sam Hargrave. Hargrave is a stunt coordinator who has worked as a stunt double for Hemsworth’s co-star Chris Evans as Captain America. The movie will also be the Netflix debut for Hollywood superstar Hemsworth.

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The Russo brothers

Plot

The plot of the film is being kept under wraps, but we have a few details so far. Hemsworth is going to play a man coping with emotional turmoil. His character is described by Deadline as physically brave but emotionally a coward. The plot of the movie will see Hemsworth rescuing a kidnapped Indian boy. The movie will be an action-thriller flick.

Filming and Release

The movie is set to begin shooting this November and end filming next year in March. The release date of the movie is yet to be confirmed. HiFi will keep you updated when the Russo brothers announce a release date for their upcoming movie.

Netflix’s Ghoul: guilt, tyranny and the monsters among men

Quietly released on 24th August, Ghoul is a sharply directed, enigmatically paced political allegory of a TV show, with a dash of supernatural spices thrown in for good measure.

The little ads and marketing you may have seen for the miniseries suggests the reverse is true, as does the director himself. “Dystopian future is something I’ve always enjoyed seeing in fiction,” Patrick Graham said, explaining how the idea of Ghoul came to be. “So we thought it would be a nice backdrop to this oppressive, claustrophobic story to have this fascist state behind it all. But really the main bulk of the story came first, and the atmosphere we wanted to create came after.”

The evil that men do

Ghoul unfolds in a dystopian India, suffering from sectarian conflicts and fascist state policies. Nida Rahim (Radhika Apte) chooses the state over her own minority roots and hands over her dissenting father to the state for reconditioning camps. Sometime later, she is assigned to Meghdoot 31, a remote interrogation facility to draw a confession out of Ali Saeed, a feared terrorist. Amidst tensions within and between the military staff and the prisoners, it soon becomes clear that there are other, far more sinister forces in play.

The allegory, while daring and thought provoking, is anything but subtle. The persecuted minority, which includes intellectuals and priests, all bear Muslim names. Graham, however, does a great job in creating an oppressive, paranoid atmosphere. The limited number of locations also helped heighten the intensity. Originally intended to be a film, the three-part acts were shot on location over one month, for fourteen hours a day, in a smelly, ‘damp setting with no sunlight’.

Produced through a unique collaboration between Ivanhoe, Blumhouse and Phantom Productions, it also features some serendipity in the form of the lead actress, Radhika Apte. This is her third Netflix feature in 2018, following Lust Stories and Sacred Games. “I’m very excited,” Apte commented on the coincidence. “I’m loving the attention, but it wasn’t by design.”

What turns good men cruel

Sacred Games and Ghoul are different affairs, and rightfully so. While the former is a big budget blockbuster production, this is a more intimate story that succeeds more due to the competent cast and tight storytelling. Apte does a fine job as the morally conflicted daughter who comes to see both herself and the state in a new light as the story progresses.

Manav Kaul plays Colonel Sunil Dacunha, the decorated war hero in charge of Meghdoot 31. It’s a more introspective role compared to Apte’s Rahim. Dacunha has long surrendered his conscience to the orders of the state. His guilt, however, remains submerged and potent. It’s this guilt, as well as the guilt of the rest of Meghdoot’s staff, that becomes fertile ground for the forces of chaos and terror to play with in the series’ third act, along with ideas of sedition and mutiny being played out both within the prisoners and the facility staff.

Demons in disguise

The supernatural aspects of the series, while novel, are a little underdeveloped and easy to counteract. Graham uses elements from Arabic folklore to great effect, but the horror of the story draws more from the Orwellian aspects of the setting. Graham was also conscious about limiting the use of jump scares. “Anybody can have a cat jump in through the window or have a bird hit a window pane. Jump scares are not the most challenging aspect of making horror.”

The main antagonist turns the table on the military staff, preying on insecurities and flaws such as collateral damage and broken marriages before eating their flesh to steal their identities. “I am nothing like them, Ahmed, and nor do I want to be,” is a key line that says volumes about Ghoul’s views on who the true monsters are. This is underscored to great dramatic effect in the film’s climax, with a line that reminded me, oddly enough, of Geralt of Rivia from The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt.

As a limited series, Ghoul also reminds me of The Thing, Alien and Pitch Black, as well as survival horror games such as Dead Space and F.E.A.R. The political elements borrow liberally from classics such as Fahrenheit 451, 1984 and A Clockwork Orange.

The Verdict

While it’s a good horror production, one can’t help but feel it could have benefited from a longer narrative that allowed more room for both the political and supernatural elements to breathe. Thankfully, the ending leaves room for a Season Two. “Yeah, anybody who watches it can very much realize that isn’t the end of the story,” Graham acquiesced when pressed on the series’ future.

Whatever lies in the future for Ghoul, Radhika Apte is optimistic about the future of Indian content on Netflix. “Sacred Games’ success has really made everybody believe that this is one of the biggest and best things that could happen right now.”

Originally published on Medium and UpThrust on August 26, 2018.

Oppo launches the new F9: sleek and notched

Oppo has launched the newest set to its line-up, the Oppo F9. They unveiled the new phone at a grand event at Radisson Blu Dhaka. The phone is designed stylishly with lots of power to boot.

VIP’s

The event saw many celebrities present, such as Taskin Ahmed of the national cricket team and renowned model Peya Jannatul. Managing Director of Oppo Bangladesh, Damon Yang, was also present. In between many TVC’s of the phone played at the launch, Yang hoped that the Bangladeshi consumers would be happy with their new product.

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Managing Director of Oppo, Damon Yang (Left) with cricket superstar Taskin Ahmed (Right)

Phone Specs

The phone itself is very sleek and stylish. It comes in three different colors, Sunrise Red, Twilight Blue and Starry Purple. The gradient color design is new to the industry, according to Oppo officials. It features a 6.3-inch Waterdrop display and a very unobtrusive notch at the top. As a result it features a high screen to body ratio of 90.8%. The F9 comes with either 4 or 6 gigs of RAM, with 64 gigs of ROM in both versions. It runs on Color OS 5.2, a variant of Android 8.1. The Oppo F9 comes with an octa-core CPU as well. Most importantly it comes with support for 2 different 4G sim cards, as well as micro SD card functionality. Oppo officials say all three can be used simultaneously.

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The new Oppo F9

Battery

The battery of the F9 is 3500 mAh and has a much-hyped VOOC flash charging function. According to their marketing material, 5 minutes of charging is enough for 2 hours of talk-time. They even showed a TVC featuring Bollywood stars Siddharth Malhotra and Dipika Padukone. The TVC emphasizes how 5 minutes of charging gets 2 hours of talk-time out of the device.

Selfie Expert

Oppo is a self-proclaimed selfie expert. Likewise, the new F9 has great cameras on both the front and back. The two cameras at the back are measured at 16 and 2 megapixels, while the front camera boasts a massive 25-megapixel camera. It features AI sensors like most high-end smartphones. These AI sensors can automatically control the lighting and effects to make a particular scene look better according to the subject.

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Taskin’s long arms aren’t just for bowling bouncers

Pricing and Availability

The Oppo F9 is priced at 28,990 and 31,990 BDT respectively for the 4 and 6 gigs of RAM versions. It goes on sale from August 31st, 2018. GP users will get 5 gigs of cellular data free with every purchase.

Remembering Nobel Prize winning author V.S. Naipaul: celebrating a complex legacy

Nobel Laureate and winner of the Man Booker prize, Sir Vidia Naipaul’s literature was no stranger to intense criticism.  Sir Naipaul even feuded with other prominent, controversial authors, Salman Rushdie and Paul Theroux. His death has brought forth a renewed wave of mixed reactions.

Exposed to literature in his early years

V.S. Naipaul is considered one of the greatest prose writers of the last half-century. He created more than 30 works of both fiction and non-fiction. His early works were comical and influenced by his diverse roots. His grandparents were immigrants from India who moved to Trinidad and Tobago to work at the British sugar plantations. Naipaul was born in Chaguanas, Trinidad.  Naipaul’s early foundations in literature were his father’s love for writing for the Trinidad Guardian and shared a reverence for writers.  He excelled in school. He won a government scholarship, giving him a choice of any university in the British Commonwealth.

His years at Oxford University was relatively rough, experiencing long episodes of depression and self-doubt. Later in life, he opened up about frequent breakdowns during this period, in which he also experienced the loss of his father. Shortly after graduating, he and his partner, Patricia Hale moved to England. He wrote his first short story to officially launch his career as a writer. His publisher thought that a short story anthology by an unknown Caribbean writer would not sell in Britain. So, he wrote a novel which we now know as The Mystic Masseur.

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An unconventional storyteller, Naipaul

Psychiatrist and revolutionary theorist Frantz Fanon wrote that “the first ambition of the colonized” was to resemble the colonizer “to the point of disappearing in him.” This was not the case for Naipaul’s storytelling. His writing style is closer to sub-continental authors than western works. In almost all of his works of fiction, there was an interplay between tragedy and comedy.

His stories usually featured a fictitious island or a nameless land, which was a clear reflection on his life in the Caribbean island of Trinidad and his paternal roots in India. Naipaul’s undeniable talent was showcased in his writing. On display, is also his callous opinions and his blunt cruelty. From the contemporary point of view, Naipaul’s opinions seem self -loathing, borderline racist and even slightly misogynistic. His portrayal of female characters often made him susceptible to criticism; frequently objectifying the women in his books. His dismissiveness of the female extended to female, talented authors. One can imagine a substantial reaction from readers and writers when someone describes Jane Austen as “too trivial”.

“A House for Mr Biswas is packed with conflicts as the protagonist, Mr Biswas, subverts conventional tropes of a hero.”

A writer of a classic, A House for Mr Biswas

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His greatest work, A House for Mr Biswas stands as a classic. The story is of a son tormented by the memory of his father’s thwarted ambition, alluding to his relationship with his own father. It is a novel of epic length and formal perfection. A House for Mr Biswas is packed with conflicts as the protagonist, Mr Biswas, subverts conventional tropes of a hero. Naipul frequently broke away from conventional structures of writing and arranged his narratives haphazardly.

Among all his works of fiction, A House of Mr. Biswas is certainly the most noteworthy. In addition to that, A Bend in the River and his short story anthology A Flag on the Island are definitely worth a read. Fair warning though, in his books A Bend in the River and In a Free State, he portrays a depressing picture of post-independent African nations.

Valuing literature for itself, not the character of the author

We cannot help but marvel at the formidable body of work he left as a writer. His candid and straightforward style of writing often landed him in contentious territory; despite the unpleasantness, the messages usually possessed a degree of truth. This is the paradox of literature. Should the value of literature lie in itself, or should we take into account the views or the character of the author? Can we separate the writing from the personality that wrote it?

Even his fiercest critics have to admit that some of his works are timeless masterpieces. For many, his controversial opinions or his actions in his personal life cannot diminish his writing. Even writers who are adamant in their criticism, have expressed their grief at the loss of a literary genius. Author-poet Jeet Thayil successfully summed it up describing Naipaul as an awful man, a brilliant writer and said his death was like “losing a cantankerous, contrarian father”.

Reds sign Alisson Becker – will big money make a difference?

Alisson Becker has been a target for premier league clubs for the entire summer transfer window and the Brazilian stopper had been strongly linked to a transfer to Chelsea among other clubs. AS Roma seemed unwilling to let go of their first-choice keeper but it seems like his former Roma teammate Mohammed Salah has persuaded him to decide otherwise. Even though AS Roma was adamant to retain Becker while all the other European clubs were trying to poach him, what suddenly made the Serie A club to decide otherwise and allow him to head for Anfield? And was it right for the Merseysiders to make a splurge of such proportions behind e stopper in this transfer window?

Roma’s Brazilian goalkeeper Alisson looks on after being defeated by Liverpool at the end of the UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg football match AS Roma vs Liverpool FC at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome on May 2, 2018. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP) (Photo credit should read ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images)

Liverpool’s world record fee

The decision to sell Alisson has raised questions about A.S. Roma’s lack of ambition but the Director of Football at A.S. Roma, Monchi, admitted that the hefty sum Liverpool offered was too good to turn down. Liverpool offered to pay a whopping 72.5 million euros and this makes Alisson the most expensive goalkeeper in the world. This beats the previous record of 53 million euros paid by Juventus for Gianluigi Buffon back in 2001 and the 40 million Manchester City forked out for Allison’s compatriot Ederson to sign him from the Portuguese outfit Benfica last year. “When a very substantial offer comes in you have to consider it,” said Monchi, when explaining Roma’s decision to sell the goalkeeper. “We weighed up the pros and cons and decided to speak to Liverpool.” Alisson will also become one of the highest earners at the Merseyside outfit with a salary of around £5 million a-year.

Liverpool desperate to end the trophy drought

Desperate or not, almost everyone in the footballing community has called out for Loris Karius to be replaced since his 2018 Champion’s League final debacle against Real Madrid. Even though Karius entered Liverpool after being named of Bundesliga’s top keepers, his two years in the English game has been error ridden. In a domestic league as competitive as the Premier League, it is almost impossible to win titles without consistent world class performance between the sticks. That much has been obvious from the way David de Gea single handedly kept winning matches with Manchester United like and has arguably been United’s best player in the past couple seasons. Karius however has failed to deliver in that department. Pepe Reina’s saves in the 2012 League Cup final and the 2006 FA Cup final proved pivotal for the Red’s when they won both trophies via the dreaded penalty shootout. But The 25-year-old’s unconvincing performances left Klopp deliberating between Simon Mignolet or Karius.

Klopp eager to learn from past mistakes

A flashback to the 2016 Europa League final would probably remind most that their then left back Alberto Moreno’s blunders cost them the chance to play in Europe’s premier competition. Daniel Sturridge’s curling strike put Liverpool in front and they seemed set to qualify but Moreno made two crucial blunders which let Sevilla bag the game 3-1 and qualify instead. Many expected that to be the Spaniard’s last game in a Liverpool shirt. Klopp, however, remained adamant that he should be the Reds’ first choice left back and would improve under his influence. That, unsurprisingly, did not happen, as James Milner became the main left-back for the 2016/17 season. One would suspect that Klopp would not like to make the same mistakes he made in his first full season at Anfield.

Bringing the Reds’ defense up to the mark

It is undeniable Borussia Dortmund has worked wonders during his time at Anfield and has transformed the Reds from a mere top 8 club to possible title challengers. But even though he has turned his attacking lineup into one of the most dynamic one in the Premier League, their defense has not been performing at the same level. Finishing fourth after conceding 38 goals in as many matches, even after signing Virgil van Dijk for a world-record £75 million in December was a clear display of room for improvement. Alisson on the other hand has made 66 saves from shots inside the penalty area in Serie A in 2017/18 season and 46 saves in the 2017/18 Champions League while playing a key role in their run to the semi-finals. Klopp has also purchased Naby Keita, Fabinho and Xherdan Shaqiri in the summer transfer window, possibly making the midfield even stronger and it was vital that he makes some effort to improve the defense to support an exciting forward line. After all, Alisson has proven to be worthy of performing at the biggest stage, keeping clean sheets in five of his six home games played in the 2017-18 Champions League for A.S. Roma, conceding goals in only one match, in May against Liverpool. Liverpool fans will certainly be keen to see how much the South American stopper can improve their chances of winning a first ever title since the beginning of the Premier League era.

Nathan Fillion plays Nathan Drake in an Uncharted short film

The Uncharted series is a franchise exclusive to the PlayStation system, achieving total lifetime sales of over 21 million copies. The game combines seamless transition from game-play to Hollywood level Action movie set pieces and cinematics. Nathan Fillion semed to . Fans got their wish when on 16th July when Fillion and Director Allan Ungar (Gridlocked) made a fan movie and have released the project on the internet.

The film stars Nathan Fillion as Nathan Drake such as Steven Lang as Victor Sullivan, Mircea Monroe as Elena Fisher and Geno Segers as the antagonist. The movie follows the trio as they try to find the lost treasure of Flor De La Mar.

This fan-made movie is independent of the currently still at development Uncharted movie being made at Sony. The official project remained in production hell going through numerous rewrites. Director David Russell (The Fighter, American Hustle) was tasked with directing the movie and joining him was Mark Wahlberg as Nathan Drake, but due to creative differences David Russell departed the project along with his proposed cast. As of the latest news, Tom Holland (Spiderman: Homecoming, Avengers Infinity War) is currently set to star as Nathan Drake with the movie getting a complete overhaul focusing on Nathan’s younger years.

Whether the movie comes out or not remains to be seen but fans can be happy that a fan made movie is made staring their ideal cast for Nathan Drake and there is hope that this movie follows the example of Deadpool where something similar happened with Ryan Reynolds playing the Merc with a Mouth in a fan made project and due to the positive response the movie was given the green light to be made .

Only time will tell whether the official movie production can change its fortunes.

France’s beauty lost on the world

When France came into the tournament with one of the youngest teams, loaded with attacking weapons across the pitch, it was expected that Les Bleus would blow opponents away before exiting the tournament against one of the more experienced and stronger sides in the latter stages.

However, Didier Deschamps’s team made their intentions clear when they began the tournament with 2-1 and 1-0 wins over Australia and Peru respectively. They were not going to be the team that attacked relentlessly and scored the most goals at the tournament, despite arguably having the best personnel to do so with.

France looked laboured in those two games but a 4-3 thriller against Argentina in the round of 16 may have given birth to hopes that they would finally unleash their wealth of attacking talent for the remainder of the tournament. However, keen observers would have noticed that France did not really play with the objective of scoring four goals; it was simply the need of the hour.

A constant midfield three of Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kante and Blaise Matuidi should have indicated France’s intentions. If further clarification was needed, then Antoine Griezmann’s berating of his teammates for foraying too far up the pitch when France restored the lead against Argentina underscored perfectly how they intended to play.

Despite building a solid team which offers opponents few chances and instead breaks out on breath-taking counterattacks that have seen the world stand up and take note of one Kylian Mbappe, the French have come under a barrage of criticism for what is being described as ‘negative football’ following a 1-0 win over Belgium, the highest scoring team in the tournament, on Tuesday night.

That is quite an unfair statement to make.

When going up against some of the best teams on the planet, France have opted for the wise decision to use their weapons as effectively as possible while sacrificing nothing for the sake of flair.

They deploy Kylian Mbappe as a one-man counterattack, urge Griezmann to drop deep and find the killer ball, force Paul Pogba to restrain his forward runs and instead spread the play and ensure that their backline of Samuel Umtiti and Raphael Varane are as untroubled as possible. All of this plays perfectly into their hands and frees arguably their greatest weapon, N’Golo Kante, to do what he does best and destroy the other team’s game-plan with his incessant, dogged and almost irritating style of play.

Yet, nobody can accuse France of being toothless in attack. They look threatening whenever they get into the opponent’s half and the 1-0 scoreline should serve only to flatter Belgium, not reflect poorly on the finalists. Les Bleus may not have hogged possession, but they could easily have scored three if not for the profligacy of Olivier Giroud. On the other hand, Belgium, for all their passing and attacking intent, barely made a dent.

Deschamps has constructed perhaps the perfect strategy to lift his nation’s second World Cup, but audiences appear unimpressed.

Despite praising Uruguay relentlessly for their dominant defensive display against Portugal at this World Cup and fawning over the Italians, who have made it a habit of wearing down their opponents with the patented Catenaccio style of play for decades now, fans want France to attack, enthral and win all at the same time.

It is not often a perfect mix.

The only other country that has this much pressure to not only win, but to also put on a show while doing so, are Brazil. They have paid the price since their last triumph in 2002 for overlooking pragmatism in their quest for ‘joga bonito‘; ‘the beautiful game’. Against Belgium, the Selecao completely abandoned any notions of a midfield and allowed Romelu Lukaku time and space on the ball, which led to their punishing 2-1 loss. The game itself was a masterpiece for neutrals across the world, but losers Brazil certainly did not win any fans. Given the fallout from that game, which saw the entire world side with a Belgium team that executed its plans to perfection against an attack-minded Brazil while withstanding a barrage of shots, France seem to be left with two options.

They can either play their game and possibly win the World Cup while having to contend with displeased neutrals. Or they can switch to an all-guns-blazing approach, lose the final and ‘win hearts’.

Our cricket team are especially good at the latter, but ask anyone — aside from Eden Hazard: would they rather be defeated and win hearts or be criticised and win a World Cup.

You already know the answer.

Ant-Man and The Wasp: small heroes, big laughs

While the Marvelites are still recovering from their post-traumatic misery disorder after the monumental finale of Avengers Infinity War, Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man and The Wasp works as a potent antidote to all the doom-and-gloom. Be sure to be effortlessly entertained by a breezy “heist” sequel that never takes itself too seriously. While missing James Gunn’s heart wrenching depth or the Russos’ action sensibilities, this movie stands on its own with a strong cast, great size-shifting action elements and some endearing hilarity.

Thanks to his previous “heroism,” Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) finds himself under house arrest after the events of Captain America: Civil War. Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his daughter Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) are on the run from similar prosecution. Neither parties have spoken in some time, but that’s until Scott dreams he’s inside Janet Van Dyne’s (Michelle Pfeiffer) body – aka Hank’s long-lost-to-the-Quantum Realm wife. Cue a rescue mission.

Ant-Man and The Wasp juggles a couple of story threads with moderate success. First off is using Hank’s quantum gateway to rescue Janet while thwarting black market dealer Sonny (Walton Goggins) from stealing their tech. A house-arrested Scott Lang also must ensure federal agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) doesn’t catch him outside his permitted area. But the movie’s tragic antagonist Ava (Hannah John-Kamen) aka Ghost gets the best story thread of glitching her way to stealing Janet’s essence for her own healing purpose. Marvel has created some truly memorable villains over the last couple of years and while Ghost doesn’t share the highest mantle with Thanos or Killmonger, she definitely gets close with John-Kamen’s tortured portrayal of the character.

Paul Rudd is also stellar as expected in portraying Ant-Man’s average Joe super heroism and fatherhood. His affable personality just works in all of the comedic sequences. But it is Michael Peña’s Luis who steals the funny train. He takes full advantage of the tighter comedy in the script and hyper-babbles to victory under “truth serum” influence. Peña’s that one-line jukebox which keeps cranking out the hits. May every movie feature his mini-voice shrieking with excitement. Evangeline Lilly just crushes it as well this time around fully kitted by the Wasp suit and makes up for her superheroine persona’s absence in the first movie. Wasp’s fight scenes revel in the graceful femininity and the sexy lethality of her comic book counterpart.

Credit is due to the effects teams behind Ant-Man and The Wasp too. As technology increases, so does Hollywood’s ability to superimpose the faces of Douglas, Pfeiffer and Fishburne in flashback ages – which Marvel fashions nicely. Then you’ve got Scott and Hope’s constant ballooning or deflating, which never feels out of place in a visual sense. Cinematography doesn’t exactly break the mold, but it keeps us anchored in worlds of varying magnitudes even in Quantum Realm psychedelics. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids would be proud. Gigantic tomatoes, refrigerator-sized salt shakers, miniaturization scales of otherwise regular sized products and all.

Ant-Man and The Wasp is endearingly earnest, positively punderful and ant-tastic from start-to-finish. While there are weak links weakening the foundation, the final build is a solid romp. This flick may not be essential in the grand Marvel-ous scheme of things, but you’ll be glad it exists. Ant-Man has always been a tremendous supporting character, and that’s exactly what this origin sequel lets Scott Lang do best.

Also, DO NOT miss out on the post-credits scene.

Sacred Games: a dark triumph of noir storytelling

Sacred Games makes its grim ambition abundantly clear from the get go.

A dog falls to its death, hitting the ground with a thud, its white coat marred with faint patches of red. A woman is murdered in cold blood by a self-professed gangster god, half naked, his modesty barely covered by the hem of his panjabi. Many others soon fall to a hail of bullets.

Sacred Games is Netflix’s first Indian series. Adapted from an acclaimed 900-page doorstopper by Vikram Chandra, the eight-episode first season is equal parts gripping and thrilling. Directed by Anurag Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane, it’s also socially charged, finely balancing sharp commentary within the dual narratives.

Saif Ali Khan plays Sartaj Singh, a jaded cop trying to uphold his father’s integrity in a police force that has no use for such lofty ideals. In a depressingly mediocre ten-year career, Sartaj has failed to bag anything other than small time thugs. His fate changes, however, when he receives an anonymous call about the whereabouts of Ganesh Gaitonde, a legendary crime lord who has been missing for 16 years. Ganesh Gaitonde is played with weathered, dangerous calmness by Nawazuddin Siddiqui. The kingpin starts a chain reaction of events that are set to shake the foundations of the Mumbai underworld to the core.

Like most Kashyap features, this is solid, pulpy noir, featuring staples such as damsels in distress and rampant corruption. Mumbai is also portrayed as a complex, multi-layered character in its own right. Sacred Games is unabashedly Indian, with many references to the local religious divides smartly woven into the winding narrative. The writers (Varun Grover, Smita Singh and Vasant Nath) have done a decent job in constructing a universal revenge-fueled narrative that will appeal to viewers worldwide.

Saif Ali Khan’s straight laced, tortured Singh is a decent protagonist, but he is the straight man to Nawazuddin, the undisputed star of the story. His antihero gangster story unfolds in a way that reminiscent of not only Gangs of Wasseypur and Godfather, but also lesser known indie features such as Only God Forgives.

The supporting cast is also well-rounded. RAW agent Anjali Mathur (Radhika Apte) plays a memorable role later in the season. Sartaj’s right hand man Katekar (Jitendra Joshi) is an underrated delight along his wife Shalini (Neha Shitole). The couple take turns playing comic relief and emotional support to Sartaj’s straight man. The cinematography does well in portraying the journey of Bombay to Mumbai, featuring authentic outdoor locales in lieu of stock beauty shots. The soundtrack, mellow and haunting, fits well with the anguish and bitterness of Sartaj and Ganesh. The score is also fused with traffic and other Mumbai noises in a visceral mix.

Of course, Sacred Games is not without its flaws. The characters’ common sense is often sacrificed at the altar of plot expediency. Noir stories, though initially thrilling, can get repetitive if they stick to the beaten path. Nawazuddin’s Ganesh, for instance, feels like a spiritual successor to his Faizal from Wasseypur. The show’s narrative is also driven by a ticking clock device, a trope liberally used in earlier thrillers such as 24.

Like all foreign Netflix productions, Sacred Games is also available in multiple dubs. However, it’s best viewed in Hindi with subtitles. The Hindi is authentic, as expected, but what makes the language essential hearing is the liberal peppering of Marathi by the various characters.

In the context of Indian content landscape, Sacred Games has the potential to be a game-changer. The majority of Indian TV content focuses on family drama and reality TV, mostly targeted at an older generation. There is a dearth of engaging mature content that speaks about relevant issues that cater to multiple demographics. There have been previous attempts of producing big-budget limited series starring Bollywood stars such as Amitabh Bacchan and Anil Kapoor. However, Netflix’s name value and subscriber base may be a key difference maker.

Can it be the Narcos of India? It certainly has the quality and star power to pull it off. At any rate, the cliffhanger leaves room for a solid, if not stronger second season, along with similar Indian TV shows waiting in the wings.