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Spy Hard

Film: The Spy Who Dumped Me, Cast: Mila Kunis, Kate Mckinnon, Justin Theroux, Directed by: Susanna Fogel, Duration: 1 hr 56 mins, Rating: * * *

The Spy Who Dumped Me is one of those lightweight flicks that never takes itself too seriously and is often preposterous and it still ends up being a fun ride. Like any serious spy thriller though this one has a fair bit of action and a great deal of globetrotting. This is Susanna Fogel’s second feature as a director and like her first film Life Partners, this one also centers around female bonding. It somewhat reminds you of the Melissa McCarthy starrer Spy which was on similar lines.

Mila Kunis plays Audrey and her bestie is Kate McKinnon (of Saturday Night Live fame) whose name is Morgan. Her surname happens to be Freeman, if I may add.

Audrey is mourning her breakup with Drew (Justin Theroux) and it gets worse for her as everyone keeps asking about him during her birthday celebration. Keeping up with the modern times, their break up happened over text. In another part of the world we see him being chased by a bunch of guys. As it turns out, he is a spy and she has no inkling about it till he lands up unannounced at her apartment. Everyone seems to be after a small little trophy that belongs to Drew but is in Audrey’s possession.

The girls have to instantly dash off with the trophy to Vienna where they have a secret rendezvous which ends up with a lot of dead bodies in a fancy restaurant. From there on, they have to deal with a lot of men and women, not knowing who the good or bad guy is. There is even an ex gymnast with a baby face who has turned into a lethal killer.

For a change, the male actors take a backseat, Sam Heughan plays another agent but the film is about Kunis and McKinnon all the way and the latter especially is an absolute hoot. The film never shies from being goofy – primarily it aims to entertain with the goofiness and you want it to stay that way because that is much more fun than the occasional serious parts.

There hasn’t been a chic flick of late and in its own right, this is an enjoyable one.


Childhood Revisited

Film: Christopher Robin, Cast: Ewan McGregor, Hayley Atwell, Directed by:  Marc Forster, Duration: 1 hr 44 mins, Rating: * * *

“Doing nothing often leads to the very best something,” says the wise Winnie the Pooh in the new Disney offering. The cute little bear also says: “People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day.” Those are some of the take away lines that stay with you even after the end credits roll. As for the rest of it, it has some highs, some lows, and some flat moments.

Directed by Marc Forster, who has made a variety of films including the touching Finding Neverland (2004), The Kite Runner (2007) and the Bond film, Quantum of Solace (2008), Christopher Robin brings many memorable characters to life like Pooh, Piglet, Owl and the rest.

Based on the characters created by Milne and Ernest Shepard, in a quick opening montage we see how Christopher is sent to school, fights in WWII, falls for Evelyn (Hayley Atwell) in a bus, marries her and has a kid. Prior to that, we see the bonding between him as a kid and Pooh.

Christopher played by Ewan McGregor now works for a luggage company with a rather stressful job. Add to it, his boss asks him to cut costs and that means downsizing. So, instead of spending the weekend with his family, as promised, he has to sit and work out a strategy but that doesn’t go to plan. Pooh turns up from nowhere and takes him back to his childhood territory and the film drags a bit at that point when they venture into the forest. It may have been an important component in text but visually, it doesn’t quite work.

It works best when Pooh and Christopher are doing nothing, or at least nothing specific. The film also makes a point, which has been made several times before and has to be made again, that life is about living in the present rather than slogging for the future.

There is a certain old world charm though which is enchanting but the screenplay itself is a bit inconsistent – it engages and yet at times, it becomes pedestrian.

The standards of CGI have gone so high, that anything looks possible without the viewer really noticing it. We have indeed come a long way since Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1998). If you are a fan of Milne’s writing, you will be delighted to see Pooh and the rest on screen with some reservations about the story.


Mission Implausible

Film: Vishwaroopam 2, Cast: Kamal Hassan, Pooja Kumar, Andrea Jeremiah, Shekhar Kapoor, Directed by: Kamal Hassan, Duration:  2 hrs 10 mins, Rating: * 1 / 2

This film has been in production for the last five years – it was meant for a release in 2013, the same year Vishwaroopam was released.  Effectively, there was ample time to go through the script and rewrite it but given the evidence, that doesn’t seem to have happened.

While Vishwaroopam was reasonably entertaining because of the territory it explored, this second part is a deathly dull and insipid outing – blame it on the writing and the direction, both by Kamal Hassan. The gentleman is a much revered figure and a brilliant actor but to put it politely, his other skills aren’t up to the mark.

Rarely do you lose interest in a film so quickly, within minutes I had switched off mentally only to be drawn back in some scenes which I couldn’t help but watch for its sheer ludicrousness, in concept as well as execution.

Hassan plays a secret agent, Wisam Ahmed aka Vis and the story is all over the place, starting with the two women in his life – his wife Nirupama (Pooja Kumar) and his colleague Asmita (Andrea Jeremiah) who happen to be with him most of the time. To think of it, he is either working overtime to save his country from nefarious plans or spending time with the two lovelies.

His mission implausible, which unfortunately he chooses to accept, involves India, Afghanistan, UK and also US soldiers. It keeps cutting between the past (his Afghanistan ordeal from the previous film) and the present. In UK, he and his wife even venture into disarming an underwater nuclear bomb – the scene was as exciting as a long distance jog at noon. The other actors reprise their roles, Shekhar Kapoor plays a senior strategist who gives orders while Rahul Bose plays a mastermind terrorist – he speaks in such a voice that I am surprised his vocal chords didn’t give away. Hassan and the ladies are sincere but they can do precious little. Good old Waheeda Rehman is seen as Wisam’s mom who is suffering from Alzheimer’s.

As for the rest, I would rather erase it from my memory.


Shark Attack

Film: The Meg, Cast: Jason Statham, Bingbing Li, Directed by: John Turtletaub, Duration: 1hr 52 mins, Rating: * * 1 / 2

When Steven Spielberg made Jaws back in 1975, little did know that a similar template would be used every now and then for the next almost half a decade. The Meg is predominantly a Chinese production ($150 million reportedly), set in China, with a Chinese cast where Jason Statham has to save Chinese beachgoers from a rather big prehistoric killer shark.

If you like cheesy predictable fun (you can guess sufficiently in advance who is going to die and who will live) then The Meg isn’t so bad. Director Turtletaub whose resume has films like National Treasure, it is clear right from the beginning that the film is not aiming too high – it wants to stick to the basics and does so till it goes berserk towards the end.

Set in the South China Sea, there is an underwater research facility called ‘Mana One’ which has massive glass walls making it look like a sophisticated aquarium and it is funded by a American billionaire, but run by a Chinese scientist and his daughter Suyin (Bingbing Li). In the prologue, we see Jonas (Jason Statham) go on a rescue mission that goes awry – he is sure that some creature attacked their underwater vehicle but others think he is crazy. Since it ended it tragedy, the hero is in a I-have-retired-and-I-will- not-do-this-again mode.

The scientists think that there is a world below the cold hydrogen layer which has never been explored so they send a sub to find out more. That makes the Megalodon aka Meg a supposedly extinct species of massive size, very angry and global xenophobia also seems to have swept the underwater as the vehicle is attacked and the members are stranded.

That brings our hero, chilling in Thailand with Hey Mickey blaring on the soundtrack, out of retirement but not before he gives some pearls of wisdom about Mother Nature and all that. As it happens one of the members stranded is his ex-wife but that is not the reason why he decides to take up this assignment. Romance awaits him, not with his ex or the Meg but with Suyin (This is a Chinese production in case you have forgotten) who is a single mother with the smartest kid we have seen on screen in recent times.

The ginormous creature manages to come out of the ‘hydrogen layer’ and is in a foul mood. Brain and brawn has to be used to contain it and to be fair, some of the portions were fun to watch. In the climax, the screenplay throws in the towel as the hunt gets a little absurd but you get to watch beachgoers dancing to awful music while the Meg waits for an opportunity to bite their rear. But with Statham around, you know he will save the day even it means that he has to take the Meg for a ride. Statham’s bland approach works, as it often does but that’s about it.

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