Star Trek Beyond: Breathless action, fun trip!

Star Trek Beyond
A still from Star Trek Beyond

If to live long and prosper is a promise the Star Trek brand made to its massive fan following, it’s keeping its end of the bargain.

Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, the franchise juggernaut comprising of small screen voyages and big continues to evoke nostalgia and inspire ingenuity.

But it’s the combination of these two qualities in the third installment of the reboot series — Star Trek Beyond — what makes it worth a trip.

My biggest takeaway (and relief) from the first one, which came out in 2009, is a Spock I could live with, even like.

Zachary Quinto turns out to be just the Vulcan for the part. And even though Chris Pine is a bit of a scramble as Captain James T Kirk, one eventually warms up to him.

The sequel (2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness) overplayed the bromance between its heroes, but it redeems itself in towering Benedict Cumberbatch’s treacherous villain.

In its latest incarnation, dedicated to the recently departed members of the Star Trekfamily – Leonard Nimoy, the original, iconic Spock and a young, talented Anton Yelchin — the narrative unburdens itself from backstories and relationship goals to plunge headlong into breathless action. It thus benefits from the curious interaction between the crew’s unlikely pairs in the face of survival.

Producer J J Abrams vacates the director’s chair for Justin Lin to take over and inject his Fast and Furious vigour to the series.

As a bonafide Trekkie, he proves worthy of the challenge. Beyond the scale and science, he recognises exploration and diversity as the very soul of Star Trek.

Lin ambitiously juggles both in a plot, written by Doug Jung and Simon Pegg, driven by events that cater to big studio indispensables yet reasonably satisfy the fan.

Daddy issues occupy somewhat lesser space of Captain Kirk’s mind — they’re probably saving it up for the recently announced fourth film starring Chris Hemsworth as his father — as he contemplates desk job to beat all the flying fatigue. The tedium of his mind is reiterated in a humorous montage of life on the Enterprise.

Meanwhile, Spock is also having second thoughts about staying aboard even as Lieutenant Sulu misses his kid and husband. Never a subject of speculation, his homosexuality is just another sublime scene in the scheme of things but conveys the embracing spirit of Star Trek.

Before they can mull or mingle any further, a degenerating alien called Krall — armed with Idris Elba’s imposing baritone and multitude of drones — comes down on the Starfleet star ship in a dramatic sequence, that’s even more awe-inspiring in 3D.

Star Trek Beyond
A still from Star Trek Beyond

Stranded and strewn in different corners of a hostile alien planet, it’s the play of combinations alternating around the spectacle that adds to the fun.

Between a bantering Spock-McCoy (Karl Urban is a scream) equation, adventurous tone of Kirk-Chekov’s (Yelchin, hard to believe he’s gone) escapades, Krall hostages Sulu-Uhura (Zoe Saldana)’s worrisome realisations and nerd speaking Scotty (Pegg goes overboard doing the ‘Lassie’ bit)-Jaylah’s (Sofia Boutella, who happens to be a local tech-savvy hunter and the film’s most pronounced all-rounder and coolest new addition) grand pursuit, Star Trek appears to resist any urge to join the club of mindless blockbuster monsters for a good part of its duration.

Too bad that the lengthy, noisy, excessive climax and a bizarre explanation for Krall’s bad behaviour hurls Star Trek Beyond, right into their midst.

Still, as the saying goes, well begun is half done.

This review was first published on rediff.com. 

Share via email+1Pin it on PinterestShare on TumblrDigg ThisSubmit to StumbleUponSubmit to reddit
Posted in Columns & Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Column: Applauding Superman on screen!

This week I woke up to tragic world news with frightening frequency, got trolled by a bunch of humourless Hrithik fans too fixated to realise these are precisely the reasons to get excited about the movie and fell sick for the third time in quick succession.

And yet, I wouldn’t call the last seven days a complete dampener. Here’s why:

Monday
A still from Azhar.

Monday blues meet men in blue as I sit down to watch a movie based on a famous cricketer’s journey from success to scandal.

Funny how the subject of its inspiration and title — Mohammad Azharuddin — gamely joins the cast and crew during promotion but its disclaimer goes on about how it’s not exactly a biopic.

How did I find it? Let’s say, the sight of a losing Indian team isn’t as painful as the embarrassingly boring Azhar. That it’s so blatant in redeeming its controversy-ridden hero isn’t as shocking as how poorly acted and sloppily written it is.

Tuesday
Rajendra Kumar
Every few days, a Sultan-themed trending topic pops up to stress on Salman Khan’s unshakeable stardom. Seeing a brand new one on my homepage activates my inner Mungerilal.

Imagine if we had Twitter in the 1960s, yesteryear star Rajendra Kumar would be all over the place. Between early to mid-sixties, the Sangam hero scored six big hits in a row.

In classic social networking tradition, our timelines would be flooded with Rajendra Kumar memes, dedicated fan clubs calling themselves Rajendra Kumar’s army, polls pitting Team Sundar against Team Gopal and his popularity hash tags would read something like this.

Wednesday
Jennifer Aniston
Coming from a society where most people in your life and even more outside it make your marriage/parenthood or lack of it their greatest preoccupation, Jennifer Aniston’s piece ‘For The Record’ deeply resonates.

I am a huge fan of her comic timing, low-key style and breezy wit but when the Friends star states, ‘We don’t need to be married or mothers to be complete. We get to determine our own ‘happily ever after’ for ourselves,’ she’s conveying a grievance that transcends celebrity and culture.

This whole approach and conditioning towards personal fulfilment is regressive, unfair and alienating. Men and women have their own reasons to marry or have babies. And sometimes they don’t or wont. It’s nobody’s business but theirs, how about minding our own?

If there’s one thing no movie buff can ever claim, it is ‘I’ve seen every single film in the world.’ There’s a staggering number out there waiting to be discovered and savoured (or loathed for that matter).

Thursday
Directed By Jacques Demy

If there’s one thing no movie buff can ever claim, it is ‘I’ve seen every single film in the world.’ There’s a staggering number out there waiting to be discovered and savoured (or loathed for that matter).

All one can do is watch as many as possible in this lifetime. What I like to do these days is create a customised menu, a personal film festival of sorts, where I pick a filmmaker and his three creations and watch them within a set time frame.

One month, it was the remarkably perceptive Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Koreeda’s Still Walking, Like Father Like Son and Nobody Knows. 

Next, I focused on indie master Jim Jarmusch’s Broken Flowers, Night on Earth and Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai and his spectacular ear for soundtrack.

And now with The Pied Piper, a dark, political take on what’s perceived as a children’s tale by Brothers Grimm, I complete my Jacques Demy trilogy following The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and Donkey Skin. How can one not be wowed by the visual palette, wryness and whimsy of his stylised filmmaking?

Friday
Meenakshi Seshadri and Jaya Prada
It’s not a patch on Baba Ramdev’s twisted pose for the India Today cover but Meenakshi Seshadri and Jaya Prada’s freestyle yoga moves in Hoshiyar doesn’t fall short of trying.

Saturday
N T Rama Rao in Superman

It’s not a bird.

It’s not a plane.

Heck, it’s not even flying.

I don’t know if it’s the antibiotics I took for my flu but I think I just saw N T Rama Rao in Superman’s costume. And, whoa, he just pulled out a bullet from his chest as if it was chewing gum stuck to a desk.

Superman

A still from SupermanThe logo reads H not S as a mark of appreciation to Lord Hanuman, who bestowed him with superpowers to avenge his family’s murder.
Superman

Sunday
sunday
Among Facebook’s many features, one is to dig up old posts and feed off our nostalgia. This once, I don’t mind.

The said entry is a picture of Amjad Khan in Lawaaris and my caption reads: His ferocity is iconic but look how well he conveys guilt in this scene from Laawaris. One feels sorry for him.

In the Prakash Mehra drama, Khan dumps Rakhee as soon as he learns about her pregnancy to marry a wealthy heiress. As time goes by, he’s filled with regret over his past actions, all the more after meeting his illegitimate son who’s grown up to be Amitabh Bachchan. The shame he feels on watching Bachchan’s Mere Angne Meindance (and not because he’s dressed in a ghagra choli :-P) evoking memories of Rakhee and her version of the same, is a poignant moment in an otherwise kitschy melodrama.

As Sholay’s Gabbar Singh, he hits the peak of menace but it’s important to recognise his incredible range and quality across a variety of genres in films like Chameli Ki Shaadi, Qurbaani, Yaarana, Meera, Shatranj Ke Khiladi, Muqaddar Ka Sikandar, Lekin, Pataal Bhairavi and, of course, Laawaris. 

This column was first published on rediff.com

Also read on Super Filmi Week:
Tripping on A R Rahman
A millipede and Kimi Katkar’s monsoon romance
Udta Punjab, worst casting decisions, and naheeee…!
Of warring Khan bhakts and meeting Mogambo!
Ranbir’s forgotten romance in Bachna Ae Haseeno
Funnier than Aishwarya’s lips
Clashing superheroes and crying Khans
OCDing on Neetu Singh’s LPs!
Garam Dharam, Mantrik Origins, Rockstar Cruise

Share via email+1Pin it on PinterestShare on TumblrDigg ThisSubmit to StumbleUponSubmit to reddit
Posted in Columns & Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Column: Tripping on A R Rahman and more!

Ring out the old, ring in the new, recommends Lord Alfred Tennyson. But this week’s shiny new offerings didn’t always enthral even as old continued to prove its worth in gold. Let’s not forget what else Tennyson wrote — Ring out the false, ring in the true. And that’s exactly what I aimed for in this edition of my super-filmi week.

Monday
Anurag Kashyap in Akira
It’s the classic Guddi syndrome. A movie star’s silver screen persona is so overpowering, there’s a tendency to assume they must be flawless in real life too until, of course, we know better.

Watching the trailer of Akira, I notice it works inversely too. In this upcoming Sonakshi Sinha-led action vehicle directed by Ghajini’s A R Murugadoss, Anurag Kashyap plays a shady cop. But the aftertaste of Udta Punjab’s recent controversy and Kashyap’s distinction as the torchbearer of creative independence is so deeply etched in my mind that even in-character when I see him hold a piece of document, which I do in its bustling promo, I imagine it to be a letter from Mr Pahlaj Nihalani.

Tuesday
Where Is The Friend's Home?
I tremble to think of how frequently I’ve heard the expression ‘no more’ in the last couple of weeks. How does one deal with loss? I don’t know. I’ve a different reaction to it every time.

I wake up to the sad news of legendary Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami’s demise. But creativity like his is immortal; its profound brilliance has transcended culture and imprinted its soul on cinema, which will glow even more luminously every time it’s applauded by fans. Delicate and deep, his characters confront bittersweet challenges of life around his minimalistic aesthetics and meditative visuals.

In Kiarostami’s Where Is The Friend’s Home? (1987), his first film in the Koker trilogy, a selfless schoolboy sets out in pursuit of his classmate from village to village to return his homework book in order to save his friend from facing the teacher’s wrath the next day.

While most adults are indifferent to his gesture, his determination to reach out to his pal is heartening. Finally, an elderly carpenter takes pity and offers to be his guide. Enroute, the carpenter stops to wash his face. There, he plucks a little flower growing at the side, gives it to the boy and asks him to preserve it safely between the pages of his book. If you’ve seen it, you’ll know and if you haven’t you’ll see why the said flower is what makes a masterpiece final scene of Where Is The Friend’s Home?

Just like that flower, the memory of his filmmaking is fondly preserved in his vast population of admirers. 

Wednesday
A still from Sultan.
I am inside a packed Noida hall to watch Sultan. As I mentioned in my review, I didn’t find it any different from a standard Salman Khan film in terms of what it has to offer even if packaged like a sports drama.

What intrigues me is, despite the so-called clout he enjoys; why Hindi films get so defensive about its leading man’s ‘hero’ stature. Perhaps they doubt the loyalty of his audience and are afraid to show him fail unless he dramatically redeems his champion pedigree in the end.

Although predictable to the core, a scene in SultanSpoiler Alert— where seconds before the all-important final Salman inquires and is promptly reassured he’s made enough money for his charity of choice, made me hopeful for a second. Perhaps this one would value spirit over victory and give us a Rocky (or even Real Steel) brand of ‘People’s champion’ in the climax.

Except the movie is named Sultan not Dayavan. It’s like my friend describes the backlash to my proposed match result. “Public (read Salman fans) will start pelting stones on the screen. They’ll tear it apart.”

Thursday
Mohenjo Daro
The Mohenjo Daro trailer is no great shakes but the soundtrack by A R Rahman gives me some hope.

Its mystical melodies hold promise while Rahman’s singing scores yet again. Wish he had words to match that fervour. Javed Akhtar’s lyrics are terribly trite. They sound like roughly scribbled notes for a scratch version that accidentally made it to the final cut.

I’ve only just started listening to the album but Tu Hai is easily my pick of the lot. It packs in tremendous repeat value.

Now if only this beautiful track wasn’t picturised as shoddily as it is what with Hrithik Roshan sporting a Unicorn-like horn and creepy crimson eye shadow, Pooja Hegde channeling her Princess of the Pacific Islands Barbie and dozens of extras in statement necklaces and bibs.

Friday
Ajit in Yaadon Ki Baarat and Kulbushan Kharbanda in Shaan.
On my flight back to Mumbai, I catch up on Diptakirti Chaudhari’s book, Written By Salim-Javed: The Story Of Hindi Cinema’s Greatest Screenwriters, where yours truly is also frequently quoted.

As it happens with some movies we love, you can start off from anywhere. The thing I enjoy most about his book is how you can start reading it from any point, move to and fro, and it’s still lucid and a lot of fun. The movie buff in Chaudhari has tons of trivia and enthusiastic insight to share with the movie buff in you.

In one of the chapters, there’s a delightful anecdote on the circumstances that are believed to have inspired the writer duo to come up with a fittingly extravagant name shared by two of their best-known antagonists –Shakaal, played by in Ajit in Yaadon Ki Baarat and Kulbushan Kharbanda in Shaan.

Saturday
Brahman Naman
Watching the newly added Netflix sex comedy Brahman Naman and I am wondering what’s so hilarious about perennially aroused men from a different decade trying so, um, hard?

If that is all it set out to achieve, there’s no doubt director Q’s film is explicit in its intention – both verbally and visually. It’s also grotesquely self-conscious and distracting (to whatever purpose it hopes to arrive at) to a fault. And while the actors do well enough to sit through, I didn’t find any humour in their salacious endeavours and clunky conversation.

Genital organs, the fluids they release or the derogatory slang for these parts or the deed holds no wit by itself. By merely bringing them out in the open in the raunchiest manner possible, especially for an Indian film, drivel cannot hope to be anything more than drivel.

Sunday
Barsaat
In 1949, Kamal Amrohi’s haunting mystery Mahal wasn’t the only Hindi film high on exquisite cinematography by Germany’s Josef Wirsching.

Shot on the Mitchell NC, Raj Kapoor’s Barsaat co-starring Nargis, Nimmi and Prem Nath boasts of some incredible play of lighting by celebrated DoP Jal Mistry.

Only a rookie then, Mistry’s vision is simply superlative.Here are a few of my favourite frames from Barsaat:
BarsaatBarsaatBarsaat

This column was first published on rediff.com.

Also read on Super Filmi Week:
A millipede and Kimi Katkar’s monsoon romance
Udta Punjab, worst casting decisions, and naheeee…!
Of warring Khan bhakts and meeting Mogambo!
Ranbir’s forgotten romance in Bachna Ae Haseeno
Funnier than Aishwarya’s lips
Clashing superheroes and crying Khans
OCDing on Neetu Singh’s LPs!
Garam Dharam, Mantrik Origins, Rockstar Cruise

Share via email+1Pin it on PinterestShare on TumblrDigg ThisSubmit to StumbleUponSubmit to reddit
Posted in Columns & Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment