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Dystopian Action

Film: Alita: Battle Angel

Cast: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Mahershala Ali

Directed by: Robert Rodriguez

Duration: 2hrs

Rating: * * * 1 / 2

Based on Yukito Kishiro’s manga series Gunnm, Alita: Battle Angel is an engrossing adaptation of a post apocalyptic tale. The film has been in the making for years now with James Cameron first taking interest in it almost two decades ago thanks to Avatar and the sequels – it eventually took off only in 2016.

It doesn’t take too long to figure out that this is a high quality production although the choice of Robert Rodriguez is unusual but he fits the bill. Cameron has co-written the screenplay and plays on similar themes of class divide, much like his previous films Titanic and Avatar. But there is also a cyborg, an apocalyptic tale, a love story and there is some kick ass action.

Set sometime in the 26th century after the ‘Fall’ which one assumes was an all important universe altering battle, the central character here is Alita (Rosa Salazar) who has big eyes, like most in Manga comics. She is resurrected by Dr Ido (Christoph Waltz) who is a specialist in repairing cyborgs in a city that clearly has gone through hell but has found its feet back again. A huge spaceship like structure hovers above them – that is Zalem, apparently a Utopian place where everyone wants to go – a bit like heading to Britain before Brexit takes effect.

Dr Ido fixes her brain to a cyborg body but she has no recollection of her past. Afterall, maybe she has been around for a good 300 years and a lot has happened in her life. In flashes, we learn that she was some kind of a warrior. Jennifer Connelly plays the doctors ex-wife who has now joined hands with Vector (Mahershala Ali) whose intentions are not exactly honourable.

The city’s favourite pastime seems to be the ‘motorball’ which is a cross between, racing, basketball and rugby with a gladiator type approach thrown with it.

Alita also falls in love with a young man who is human and their feeling is mutual – it just the screenplay just skims the surface of the whole and droids and human ‘feelings’ for each other. Their love story takes a considerable chunk in the film which also serves as a motivation for the climax

The special effects are top notch and few have used 3D like Cameron did Avatar and Alita has also used it to good effect.

The start has been good – hopefully the sequels will raise the bar higher now.


Mercury Falling

Film: Cold Pursuit

Cast: Liam Neeson, Laura Dern, Tom Bateman

Directed by: Hans Petter Moland

Duration: 1 hr 57 mins

Rating: * * *

A remake of the Norwegian film In Order of Disappearance (2014) by the same director, Hans Petter Moland, Cold Pursuit is a standard revenge saga with moody atmospherics – there is hardly any outshot where you don’t see snow and lots of it.

Who would have thought, a decade or two ago, that Liam Neeson would be an action hero. He doesn’t look like one but yet has managed to pull it thanks to his acting skills.

Neeson plays Nels Coxman, a snowplow driver, in Kehoe, near Denver, Colorado. There is so much snow there that it give me the chills – not since Kurosawa’s Stray Dog (1949) have I seen weather being used so effectively, in that Japanese film, it was the hear though. I also googled for Kehoe out of curiosity, turns out it is a fictional town and the film was shot in Canada.

Coxman’s son, a baggage handler at the airport gets killed by the drug mafia which makes Papa Coxman very angry and he seeks vengeance. Off he goes on a killing spree trying to hunt down the killers. A title card pops up every time someone dies and the body count is on the higher side. Viking (Tom Bateman) is the king pin and the actor tries to act like a maniac but not in the most convincing fashion. Laura Dern plays Coxman’s wife, who voluntarily disappears midway through the film. The film is predictable to the core but it also reasonably entertaining – in this case the glass is half full.


Nostalgic Value

Film: Bhai Vyakti Ki Valli: Part 2

Cast: Sagar Deshmukh, Irawati Harshe, Vijay Kenkre

Directed by: Mahesh Manjrekar

Duration: 2 hrs

Rating: * * 1 /2

In a month’s time, the sequel to the film on PL Deshpande, the legendary cultural icon has released and the fact that they split the film in two has not gone down very well.  But yet, PL’s status is such the audiences will still be curious and despite its flaws, the first part did manage to make a mark.

But with the sequel, it shows that the screenplay has been stretched to accommodate two films. This film takes off from where the previous one left – we see the same characters again – Kumar Gandharva, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, Vasantrao Deshpande and their camaraderie really warms the heart.

The story telling for a large part remains clinical – the interest is evoked by the supporting characters. We get to see the conflict with his student Bal Thackeray and his brief involvement in politics during the Emergency. Even though PL supported the Janta Party back then, he also kept them on their toes. The famous acceptance speech at the Maharashtra Bhushan awards and the subsequent showdown with Thackeray is also shows.

But most of it happens without evoking too many emotions and cinematically, there isn’t a lot of value that is added in terms of the writing or the way it is shot.

Some of his most famous works like ‘Ti Phularani’ with Bhakti Barve and the evergreen ‘Batatyachi Chaali’ are enjoyable to watch but it is more because of the nostalgic value associated with it.




Off the Blocks

Film: The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

Voices of: Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks

Directed by: Mike Mitchell

Duration: 1 hr 45 mins

Rating: * * *

Only a Lego movie would call itself – The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part. While the first one which came in 2014 was a cracker of a film for adults and children alike (maybe the former enjoyed it more than the latter), the sequel tries to repeat the formula of trying to cram non-stop dialogues, with a fair bit of success.

There is so much happening, so much is said and so quickly that you have to be super attentive to catch the gags. Batman is also very much around to provide a few laughs in the larger scheme of things.

Emmet (voice of Chris Pratt) still thinks that everything is awesome but it is not – this is a Mad Max Fury Road kind of scenario and Bricksburg has become Apocalypseburg. There is a new threat in town General Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz). She kidnaps Lucy aka Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), Batman (Will Arnett) and company to Systar System, to meet her boss Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi (Tiffany Haddish). With a little from his new friend Rex Dangervest (Pratt again), it’s up to Emmet to rescue his friends and save the day.

There are enough pop culture references and clever lines to make you chuckle every now and then. At times, though you get the feeling that it is trying too hard to replicate the template and that is an uphill task. This is a decent outing for a few laughs.

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