Shazam is the new magic word for DCEU!

First, they tried too hard to not be Marvel. Then they tried too hard to be Marvel. Turns out all they had to do was say the magic word. The DC Extended Universe finally gets it all right with “Shazam!”.

A refreshing break from the bleakness

For a long time the consensus was that the DC movies are to be significantly more dark and bleak than contemporary superhero films. The darkness was supposed to inspire a more realistic outlook. If done right, that could have turned out well. But it wasn’t executed right. So the DCEU tried to move on to a more cheerful theme, evident in the Justice League movie. Unfortunately that also didn’t turn out great, as perhaps the most awaited film ever had measly returns from the box office.

With Aquaman, the DCEU showed signs of vitality. And they have finally perfected the formula with Shazam. The most family friendly movie from the DCEU so far, Shazam attempts to inspire every adult to embrace the child in them. And every child to unfold the hero in them. The DCEU displays it’s knack for consistency, comedy and timing in this exhilarating Boy-of-Steel film.

A well told origin story

The most difficult part of a Superhero story told on the big screen is often the origin. Origin stories are a dime a dozen, and many of them are as good as one would imagine can get. While Shazam isn’t innovative, it is near perfect in execution. The film tells the story of 14-year old Billy Batson gaining the powers of the “Seven Elders” and his subsequent adventures in a simple and carefree fashion.

While it is easy to assume from the trailers or this review that the film is specifically kid-friendly, such is not the case. It explores dark aspects of the regular lives of people with straightforward realism. But unlike many contemporaries, the film attempts to teach the audience to deal with life’s many problems with a smile.

A genuinely good time

At its core, Shazam is a cheerful superhero tale, told with remarkable simplicity and style. It doesn’t try too hard to be something it is not. And that sets it apart from many of its contemporaries. Instead of pushing an overreaching theme or straining to set up some elaborate tale (it does that quite naturally), Shazam just offers its audience a good time at the theater. All the actors involved perform perfectly on their roles, especially the younger actors and Zachary Levi. Mark Strong’s acting is as strong as ever. Most importantly, everyone seems in touch with their characters.

So go watch Shazam in the STAR Cineplex. And let the magic entangle you for a good time.

Get your tickets here.

A Noob’s guide to the horror universe

You know the weekend is just around the corner when you’re mindlessly staring at that desktop calendar and daydreaming about what to binge-watch on Netflix or getting that much-needed good night’s sleep when Friday strikes.

Speaking of Netflix, when was the last time you saw a good horror film with your friends?

It’s not surprising that some of us are afraid to watch horror movies, especially at night when we get this sudden burst of paranoia and last minute jitters as soon as the lights darken in the hall and our anxiety levels peak right before that first jump scare.

That being said, this particular genre is not for the faint-hearted. If you’re new to the world of horror I suggest we balance out the “fear metre” by starting out with the nail-biting popcorn flicks and then gradually moving on to the grittier stuff that causes trauma-inducing nightmares.

1.The Shining

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If you’re fascinated with the occult and supernatural themes then this timeless classic should be #1 on your watchlist!

Adapted from the best-selling novel by Stephen King, The Shining tells the story of Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson), an aspiring writer and recovering alcoholic who becomes mentally unstable after moving in with his family to an isolated hotel that is seemingly haunted.

As Jack grows more psychotic, his wife and son desperately try to escape the hotel while fleeing from a murderous Jack who relentlessly chases after them.

Watch this cinematic masterpiece at your own risk! Or better yet be smart and don’t watch it at all.

2. The Sixth Sense

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If you felt The Shining wasn’t supernatural enough for you then this pick will definitely make your skin crawl!

The Sixth Sense is a nerve-racking movie that’ll leave you feeling more disturbed than scared.

This nostalgic classic from the 90’s tells the story of a gifted, but troubled boy named Cole Sears (Haley Joel Osment) who has the ability to see and converse with the dead and an equally troubled child psychologist Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) who tries his best to help him.

If ghosts give you the creeps then I recommend you stick with this movie till the very end and spoiler alert! There’s more than one twist to this story.

3.  The Ring (2002)

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Since we’re moving along with the supernatural horror category, I’d say it’s only fair we add The Ring to the list.

When I mentioned earlier that horror is not for the faint-hearted I really meant it! If this film doesn’t send chills down your spine then the scream of the person sitting next to you will.

A remake of the 1998 Japanese movie of the same name, the story of The Ring is about a mysterious videotape that leaves a deadly curse hanging onto whoever watches it, eventually causing that person to brutally die within 7 days.

Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) is a journalist who attempts to uncover the truth behind the video and in the process ends up fighting for her own life and her son’s.

If you’re bored on a Friday night and got nothing else planned then you can trust this film to liven the atmosphere. But be warned though! You might get more than what you asked for.

4. Get Out

Coming back to the more grounded and realistic movies, here’s an off-beat story that’ll certainly give newcomers a few goosebumps.

While ghosts and haunted houses are recurring themes in the horror universe they aren’t necessarily the most frightening.

Sometimes the best dread comes from psychological horror and that’s exactly what Get Out is all about.

The film centers around a young African-American named Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) as he accompanies his Caucasian girlfriend to meet her parents at a secluded estate in a remote countryside. But Chris soon encounters unusual occurrences within the isolated community; particularly the strange behavior he receives from her parents.

This movie isn’t your typical screamer; it’s a weird mix between satire and psychological thriller infused with some old school horror clichés but with a storyline that’ll keep you invested at all times.

5. Hush

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Now let’s take a look at a film that takes horror back to its basics: “blood and gore”

If there’s one film that today’s generation can relate to on a personal level it might as well be Hush.

This heart-pounding slasher pick will raise your anxiety levels to unexpected heights as you struggle to keep your eyes open without gasping every few minutes.

The plot follows a young female author named Maddie Young (Kate Siegel) who retreats to an isolated cabin in the woods after a failed corrective surgery resulted in the loss of her ability to both hear and speak.

As night falls, a masked figure quietly stalks Maddie from outside the cabin, stealing her phone and threatening her by sending photos of her typing on the computer using her own social media account.

Once Maddie realizes she’s in danger it quickly becomes a cat-and-mouse game, as she attempts to survive the night by searching ways to outwit and ultimately escape her potential killer.

If you want the full jump scare experience then this is it! But that’s only half the horror the other half is realizing the fact that sometimes the best person to protect you is yourself.

6. The Conjuring

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Warning! Don’t watch this movie alone unless you’re planning on getting a series of panic attacks.

Circling back one last time to the supernatural theme leads us to The Conjuring.

Loosely based on historical events, this sinister tale follows paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren as they attempt to help the Perron family understand the increasingly disturbing incidents which plague their rural farmhouse in Rhode Island.

As the story unfolds, more light is shed on the history of the house and the gruesome details concerning the previous family who resided there.

RECAP

All things considered, the horror genre is pretty unique in the sense that you never know what to expect.

Follow this guide and take the baby steps or puff your chest and go straight for all the A-list titles if you think you’re strong enough to survive one heart attack after another.

 

 

Alita: Battle Angel is exemplary, not revolutionary

Days up to Alita’s release has been surprisingly underhyped considering that it’s an adaptation from a manga classic. Mangas such as Death Note and Ghost in the Shell, that has previously received live-action adaptations were huge disappointments. So, when media moguls James Cameron and Robert Rodriguez announced that they’re going to be giving it a book to film adaptation, maybe not everyone was budged. However, Alita did not really disappoint and watching it on the big screen at Star Cineplex was a worthwhile experience.

Staying true to the source content

Most commonly the complaint from loyal fanbases after a book to film (or manga to film) adaptations starts from the story not being true to the real canon. In this case, the film’s producer and co-writer James Cameron is actually and fan of the original manga created by Yukito Kishiro. Cameron has planned to create an adaptation of Alita for over a decade so it only makes sense that he stayed true to the original content.

Outstanding visuals

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Since the protagonist of this film is a female cyborg, it called for extremely polished and high-tech CGI. This meant that they had to spend a staggering 200 million dollars just to make the movie. This did not leave much to spend behind actually promoting it. The visual representation of the character Alita is extremely realistic, sans her eyes. Those were left exceptionally large to stay true to the manga.

The manga actually provides an explanation for why her eyes are so huge in proportion to the rest of her face but since the movie takes on so much story and condenses it into a two-hour show, it is understandable that it didn’t explore much of her origins.

The action

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The action sequences of sci-fi films can be turned legendary if put in the right hands. James Cameron has explored such aspects in his previous works such as The Terminator. Much of the action in Alita: Battle Angel is surrounding a sport they play called Motorball. It’s kind of an amalgam of roller derby and rugby that is mainly played by the cyborg inhabitants of their fictional world.

The fluid action sequences and incredible motion capture could’ve only been possible with a significant budget.

Alita moves through the air with ease, and many of the cyborgs fell organic to the proceedings.

Motorball becomes one of the more thrilling elements of the film. Among many action-packed scenes, the one in which Alita encounters Nyssiana stands out.

Nyssiana is a cyborg assassin who ruthlessly pursues Alita in the film. She is a film-original character and resembles a minor antagonist who appeared in the first volume of the manga.

The Plot

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The whole movie is essentially a buildup to a much bigger battle of sorts. The movie begins with cybernetics physician Dyson Ido(Christoph Waltz) finding the remnants of a cyborg under a fabled floating city called Zalem. Ido rebuilds the cyborg and gives her the name Alita. Alita is amnesiac at first but like all movies that feature characters with memory loss, certain situations trigger flashbacks.

Since, Alita: Battle Angel movie is only based on the first four volumes of the manga, so several plot lines and characters were not adapted for the film. Dr. Ido’s story differs a bit in the movie because he is not the main character in every arc of the manga. The name of his manga counterpart is Daisuke Ido. Rosa Salazar characterizes Alita as someone who is just discovering a magical world, but who also has a lot of command over her life. She’s innocent but not afraid. And when the time comes to protect those that she loves, she is ready. The only element in the plot that didn’t play out that well, was the romantic element. Character dialogues and moments of climax had scopes of improvement too.

Complexity in character building

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Once Alita begins to unlock her potential as a Battle Angel, the movie has an awful lot to juggle. Not only the origin of her advance-tech heart (so powerful it could power the whole city for a year!) but the people who seek to steal it for nefarious purposes, including Ido’s ex-wife Chiren (Jennifer Connelly), another cybernetics doctor who works with Vector (Mahershala Ali) to create superpowered cyberathletes to compete in Motorball.

Alita and her romantic counterpart Hugo have an instant connection with one another and that plays a vital role in the story up to the very end. The revelation of Desty Nova in Alita: Battle Angel was one of the biggest surprises in the film. Desty Nova is a mysterious figure who is central to the final arc of the Alita: Battle Angel film. He possesses several bodies during the film and appears to Alita in flashbacks.  Nova is also a major figure in the manga, and he becomes the main antagonist of the story.

The verdict

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Whether you think the storyline of Alita: Battle Angel is special or not, the movie in its entirety keeps you on the edge of your seat.

Despite its long duration of run time, It doesn’t drag and leaves you wanting more.

Since the movie ends on kind of a cliffhanger, we can only hope that the directors and producers will come up with a sequel. In the meantime, you should watch this one while it’s still running in the theatres because it’s a sensational experience whether you love futuristic sci-fi or not. Get your tickets from here.

The Beatles doesn’t exist…in the movie ‘Yesterday’

‘Yesterday’, the Danny Boyle movie due this June, is about a world where ‘The Beatles’ doesn’t exist. By the looks of its first trailer, the musical-comedy promises to rock.

Directed by Danny Boyle, from a screenplay by Richard Curtis and a story by Jack Barth, ‘Yesterday’ centres around a guy named Jack Malik. Jack is a run of the mill musician. He fails as a performer, but his girlfriend comforts him assuring ‘miracles’ do happen. One fateful night, a global power outage occurs. Following the worldwide load-shedding, Jack succumbs to a road accident. He survives but loses a pair of front teeth. As soon as he recovers and returns to normal life, he realizes nobody in this world recognizes ‘The Beatles’ anymore, except him. The Fab Four is completely erased from history, even from the internet. But Jack remembers all of their songs and can play them as well!

Jack is bewitched to see that John, Paul, Ringo and George are completely forgotten, but he also unleashes opportunity to reintroduce Beatlemania to the new generation. Willingly or not, Jack becomes a superstar by singing songs of ‘The Beatles’. His fans and critics commend his godsend songwriting ability (!) which Jack denies to be credited for. Meanwhile, he soars to stardom and eventually gets alienated from Ellie, his love interest.

What happens next can only be known when ‘Yesterday’ releases in June 28th. Jack Malik is played by Himesh Patel. Ed Sheeran makes a guest appearance as well.

Chris Hemsworth wraps up filming “DHAKA”, the film not filmed in Dhaka

Chris Hemsworth released photos and videos straight from the set of “Dhaka” on his Instagram account recently. The Australia-born star has apparently wrapped up filming his parts in the movie.

No, you probably will not run into Chris this week

To clarify, he was never in Dhaka, the city itself. The movie was filmed in Thailand and India. Those who ventured into Chris and the rest of the crew’s Instagram saw rickshaws and trucks with Bangla written on them. That was just part of a great set building.

An action thriller

In “Dhaka”, Hemsworth plays a mercenary called Tyler Rake. His character is hired by an Indian businessman to retrieve said businessman’s kidnapped son, who is held in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh in the action thriller. Hemsworth’s character is described as a physically competent man of vulnerable emotional state. And Hemsworth isn’t the only familiar face from the Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise in the movie. Sam Hargrave makes his feature directorial debut with this film. For those unaware, Hargrave is MCU character Captain America’s stunt double. Stranger things star David Harbour is also one of the supporting casts in the movie.

The “Marvel” factor?

The Russo brothers, directors of several MCU movies including Captain America: Winter Soldier and Avengers: Infinity war, are producing “Dhaka” through their independent production house. Although Hemsworth’s parts in the movie have been wrapped up, the production is expected to continue at least until March.  We don’t have a concrete release date as of right now. So we’ll just have to wait and see how a depiction of our capital city pans out in a Hollywood film.

If you think about it, Dhaka is a character in the film too, since it’s being portrayed by some other, flashier, perhaps better looking city.

Manchester By The Sea, appreciating a masterpiece

Released in 2016, Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea is a masterpiece in the portrayal of loss. The movie was awarded best screenplay and Casey Affleck clinched best actor at Oscars for this. The story centers on the protagonist, Lee, who is forced to move back to his hometown, Manchester. He returns after his brother dies unexpectedly leaving him as the legal guardian of his teenage nephew. Spoilers ahead.

A slow but gripping film, Manchester by the Sea not only delivers fantastic storytelling but also some of the most incredible and fitting cinematography that I have seen all year.

Throughout the film, the audience feel the disconnectedness and melancholy of Lee’s life. By the end, though, we feel a glimmer of hope and the optimism of healing.

What makes Manchester by the Sea the incredible film it is?

The Storytelling

This is a film that sets out to explore Lee’s present life through a fog of emotions stemmed in his past. Lee dealing with the guardianship of his teenage nephew would be uninteresting without the backstory of an accident where he lost his kids in a fire. The film, hence, relies on switching back and forth between the past and the present. You need to be attentive. Without simple details that lie in the present, one can feel lost in scenes and details alluded to in the flashbacks.

Unlike methods traditionally used in showing flashbacks, Manchester by the Sea offers no change in color schemes, no fancy transitioning or change in aspect ratio. Essentially nothing that can distinguish a flashback from the present. Scenes of the past and the present seamlessly blend; just as the past and present are so intertwined in Lee’s life. Lee, as a character, cannot dissociate himself from the guilt of his past. This makes him reluctant in taking on his new role of guardianship and a generally disconnected individual. Therefore, it is fitting that the Lee we experience is visually indistinguishable from the Lee of then and now. The technique is simple yet meaningful for the story that is being told.

The Cinematography

When we meet Lee at the beginning of the film, it is established that he is disconnected from his society and most things around him. We see a montage of him working as a janitor in many homes in New England. All the while he puts in no effort to talk to any of them beyond the bare necessities. The shots throughout the film are mostly wide shots, and at times this can feel uncomfortable like we are being restrained from getting closer. As the director keeps him at a safe distance from the camera, as does Lee keep everyone in his life at a safe distance from him out of fear that he will mess up again.

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Moreover, this film does not blur out its location in the background. Rather, the town of Manchester-by-the-Sea is a significant element in the story. The town haunts Lee but he is also deeply rooted in it. Lastly, Manchester by the Sea is filled with beautiful shots – mostly long shots – in a cool-toned and solemn filter. The color scheme of the film sets up the atmosphere of mourning and gloom. These features at up to a movie that is about loss.

The presentation of grief and change

Grief is a common theme in films – from indie to rom-com to thrillers. Usually, though, grief is portrayed as a definitive emotion that is most strongly present in important rites of passages – like with the death of a character, relatives at a funeral or sickness. Characters usually experience a moment of revelation or realization in which life will never be the same anymore. It all comes down to a very dramatic, intense moment, which is always well-timed.

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However, Manchester by the Sea takes a different route with its portrayal of grief. In fact, in the moments where a typical film would remain absolutely sober, this film puts in humor. This makes sense to the viewer, sure, sometimes funerals have a darkly comic tone to them and sometimes tragedy is best dealt with humor. It is very human emotion to feel insanely awkward and insensitively funny at the face of grief or tragedy. The complicated emotion of grief creeps in during unexpected moments. Very, otherwise casual, everyday things can intensify our grievances, not a funeral of a loved one but a favorite song on the radio of the loved one, months after te funeral

A poignant film

In summary, Manchester by the Sea is an incredible film because of the portrayal of real life and emotions in a nuanced and relatable way.

We don’t get the ending we hoped for Lee – he gives up his guardianship of Patrick – but he is changed as a character by the end. The film validates that healing isn’t always a drastic change, but is slow and in small doses.

As the director Lonergan put it, “Some people live with their trauma for years. I’m not interested in rubbing people’s faces in suffering … But I don’t like this lie that everybody gets over things that easily. Some people can’t get over something major that’s happened to them at all; why can’t they have a movie too?”