Friday, April 18, 2014

Transcendence, Hollywood English Film Movie Review, Johnson Thomas, Rating: *  * 1/2

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Transcendence(English/Imax) Rating: *  *  ½ This sci-fi adventure is caught-up in the hoary contrariness about man playing God, the dominance of machine and the uncontrollable nature of life thereafter. Goes a step further than ‘Her’ but doesn’t possess the similar poignancy. Johnny Depp is liberally wasted and appears disinterested while Rebecca Hall and Paul Bethany try and salvage some affective engagement.


English film review                                               
Johnson Thomas
Film: Transcendence
Cast: Johnny Depp, Paul Bettany, Rebecca Hall, Morgan Freeman, Kate Mara, Cole Hauser, Cillian Murphy  
Director: Wally Pfister

Rating: *  *  ½

Synopsis:Wally Pfister, longtime cinematographer for Christopher Nolan, makes his directorial debut with this sci-fi adventure starring Johnny Depp. Jack Paglen provides the script

Nothing conventional about this sci-fi that aims to go one better than ‘Her’ but doesn’t exactly have the wherewithal or the conviction to make it stick.   Transcendence speculates about the implications of imminent technological breakthroughs on life in the very, very near future. . Christopher Nolan's regular cinematographer Wally Pfister makes his directorial debut with this challenging subject that had many possibilities but very few of them well realized. The  story was ripe with dramatic, thematic, ethical, scientific, political and romantic angles and the complexity thereof could well have led to another ‘Inception’ but that was not to be.   

Artifical Intelligence, Robotics, Mind control, smart computers are all there and so is the merging of man and machine where the machine acquires the knowledge , memory as well as the emotion of the homo-sapien. First Time screenwriter Jack Paglen’s script takes that leap of faith but doesn’t distinguish it with the required poignancy or believability.

An apocalyptic future where there is no technology is the opening for this yarn and thereafter it’s a series of flash-backs narrated by neuro-biologist Max Waters(Paul Bettany). Five years earlier Max, tech genius Dr Will caster(Johnny Depp) and Caster’s researcher wife Evelyn(Rebecca Hall) have just made a massive breakthrough leading to the doorstep of the sentient computer- one that could possess the combined intelligence of all those who lived on earth. Will, who admits to playing God, is shot and several labs around the continent are blown up as protestors led by Bree(Kate Mara) of RIFT, ups the stakes. Before Will succumbs Evelyn and Max succeed in transferring his intelligence to the computer which then manifests itself into a digital super human being.  Warned by the digitized Will, Evelyn escapes to a dead town and sets up her unit there. And the resultant is Bionic beings that have superior strength and never fall ill. Will morphs into a digital phantom, Evelyn becomes unhinged and Max is long sidelined by his captors. The residual poignancy is lost.

If only the plotting had incorporated a little more insight and development, this film would have been a different experience altogether. {aul Bettany and Rebecca Hall are the only ones who provide some semblance of enagagement. Johnny Depp looks lost and Morgan Freeman, bored.

 Pfister’s heavy handed direction tends to reduce everything to simplistic standoffs. He has certainly delivered a good-looking, well-produced picture,  like all d.p. turned directors but it’s a trifle short on story-telling craft. Pfister’s d.p. of choice, Jess Hall, seems pretty much obsessed with sun flares and slow-mo water droplets and those images certainly leave you wondering about what could have been!

Lucky Kabootar, Hindi Bollywood Film movie review, Johnson Thomas Rating: *

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Hindi Film review
Johnson Thomas            
Film: Lucky kabootar  Rating: *  Catering to your ‘baser’ instincts
Film: Lucky Kabootar
Cast: Eijaz Khan, Ravi Kissen,  Kulraj Randhawa,Shraddha Das, Sanjay Mishra, Madhavi Sharma
Director: Shammi Chhabra

Rating: *
This one is an utterly trite attempt at comedy and it’s definitely not pleasant in the least.  ‘Lucky Kabootar’ is definitely targeted at those who get a rise out of risqué behavior and shabby, insensitive attempts at humor. The film appears to be driven by a romantic-comedy plot-line but neither the romance nor the comedy is justified well enough to be classified as such.

Lucky(Eijaz Khan) is a down on his luck salesman, selling tractors and he is married to Lakshmi (Kulraj Randhawa) –a woman who he makes no bones of being disgusted by. Kammo(Shradha Das), the local goon(Ravi Kissen)’s sister is the love of his life. Lucky goes to the extent of visiting a resident Baba, Sexy Das(Sanjay Mishra) who looks like a cross between Satya Sai Baba and Rajneesh , to win Kammo’s heart. Sexy Das performs obscene acts, talks in double entendre and has a complement of female disciples pandering to his every whim(sexual and otherwise). The Baba’s most favored disciples are called Hard drive and Pen drive. The intention behind that is quite obvious(hic). Thanks to Sanjay Mishra’s tongue-in-cheek performance, and his attempt to lend his character perennial villain Jeevan’s style in terms of dialogue delivery, there are at least a few moments of levity.  Unfortunately , the scripting lacks direction.  It appears as though a certain formula was decided upon first before the plot was given any shape. So the form and content here are distinctly unsavory and lascivious.

A married man’s unfulfilled desire for a woman other than his wife, is not a plot that is new to Hindi cinema so there is nothing distinctive here other than the sexual innuendos and bad sex jokes that litter the dialogues and make them sound tasteless and crass.

The turn of events that allows for Lucky to lose his wife, win a windfall and also get Kammo in the bargain, is orchestrated so amateurishly that it looks and sounds absolutely weird. To top it there are sequences of ‘shradh/ death rites’ being conducted to keep up appearances, while the object of the ‘shradh’ is alive and watching the proceedings.

Obviously, the title refers to Lucky’s sudden wealth and the fact that before the windfall , he was a diffident and foolish young man who had no value for the wealth ( his wife, aptly named Lakshmi)he already possessed. Kulraj Randhawa appears to have lost the plot after a successful debut with ‘Yamla Pagla Deewana.’ Despite her pleasant , though unaffecting performance, she is unlikely to win any fans with this severely deluded outing.

Crude sequences masquerading as semi-eroticism make the goings-on quite cringe inducing. There’s also a botched-up  attempt to portray a gay Punjabi as hirsute and effeminate- the contrast looking absolutely outlandish and quite simply , unlikely. To top it, he is called Pussy. Then there is this lady politician who doesn’t think twice before mispronouncing standard hindi words and making them sound like deliberate sexual innuendos. There’s also this woman who is so wildly in love with the goon that she drenches herself in milk at every opportunity while the camera goes slow-mo on her obvious assets,  just so that she can draw his attention to her. Such obscene references are definitely disrespectful to the character types and make the entire wildly careering narration  look totally outlandish. Don’t risk your peace of mind on this one!

In literary circles, Chetan Bhagat is often