Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Join the rigmarole

STAR TREK: BEYOND (2016)

Produced By: Paramount, and others
Director: Justin Lin
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Anton Yelchin, Idris Elba, and others
Pros: Good SFX, Star Trek nostalgia
Cons: Stale story, tired acting
Rating: ** of 5 (2 of 5)

Yes, yes, you know that I'm a Star Trek junkie. I've seen all the episodes from all the TV series (yes, even DS9), and I've also seen all the movies. Therefore, there was no way I'd miss Star Trek: Beyond, regardless of what its review was like. The fundamental fascination with warp speed, alien worlds, and interstellar alliances is just too much for me to resist!

That said, it was mostly a waste of time. Don't get me wrong, it's not a particularly bad movie, but it is a little below average. There's the token consideration for LGBT rights, and Chris Pine as Capt. Kirk, but it all felt very forced - it's almost as though Paramount felt is simply had to make a Star Trek movie without any great plot, so it went ahead and made this one. The story is stale, with a lot of ideas just rehashed from older movies, and whatever was new was not particularly interesting. The acting was tired and distinctly lacked any energy, especially some comic scenes that simply fell flat.

The only saving grace was the good SFX, particularly the visual description of what warp speed does to the surrounding space-time. However, as is the case with the Transformers franchise, effects can only do so much, and even nostalgia couldn't help this movie. In the immortal words of an infamous man: Sad! (OTFS)

Monday, June 12, 2017

Another beauty

DUMMY (2008)

Produced By: Format Films, Highwire Films, and others
Director: Matthew Thompson
Starring: Thomas Grant, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Emma Catherwoord, and others
Pros: Strong story, good acting, good music
Cons: Slow
Rating: ***** of 5 (5 of 5)

An, the Indie-scene: so full of sad movies, and yet every now and then in the dense mound of coal, you find a diamond. OzLand is still fresh in my mind, with a few other good ones whose names I can't recall. Thus, it was no surprise that I decided to watch Dummy after reading the synopsis: coming-of-age, British, and Indie... strong credentials!

And I was not disappointed. The movie revolves around two brothers, Jack and Danny (one barely an adult, the other 12) and their lives after their mother dies. The story, unlike say, Manchester By The Sea, is not an endlessly-depressing tale, and there are some very nice moments between the two brothers. But of course, this movie is a tragedy, and the story is strong enough to glide the audience into the sad ending. Coupled with that is some brilliant acting by the stars - Aaron Taylor-Johnson, in particular, puts up a strong showing. Finally, the soundtrack is well-timed and balances the story, leading to a very good ending.

The only criticism I can think of is that the movie is somewhat slow (though not overly long), but that really is a general criticism for Indie films. It's not a big problem for those (like me) who are used to it, but it can rub you the wrong way. Nonetheless, a great movie that I enjoyed. (OTFS)

This is an Emergency!

Yes, you read the headline right - this is an Emergency. In Modi's India, a grave undeclared emergency is currently underway that threatens to change the very Idea of India and bring misery to a huge section of the population. That emergency is the conversion of the mainstream media into a factory of fake news, lies, and criminal spins. It is the complete and utter subjugation of honest reporting at the hands of activism and vested interests (of journalists). And, worst of all, it is the absolute lack of irony when these very same journalists decry fake news!

The mainstream media in India - and indeed, the world - is so compromised today that it is among the least trusted institutions in the world. People see celebrity journalists as politicians-by-other-means, very much married to a political party (though never acknowledged, for obvious reasons). The news is always one-sided (if it is true at all, that is), there is very little (if any) fact but a whole lot of one-sided opinion, and an absolute holier-than-thou attitude that seeks to tell the unwashed masses what to think. In short, the mainstream media has become a propaganda tool.

It may just be that the media was always a propaganda tool, but nobody really knew it. Sure, people suspected it, but then, such private thoughts are usually kept to oneself. Until the advent of social media, we never really knew that so many people suspected the same thing. And now, we can be pretty sure that those suspicions were right. If a free and honest press is supposed to be a pillar of democracy, and an emergency is when democracy does not function, then we are certainly in an emergency.

PS: No, I'm not talking about a few channels like Zee News that are pro-BJP. I'm talking about the vast ecosystem of pro-Congress journalists, academics, and judges, of which NDTV is just the tip of the iceberg.