Category Archives: Movies

The Equalizer 2: Killed the golden goose?

Star actors are rare. Basically they can and try to ‘act’ in a blockbuster material. What is a blockbuster material? It is where logic takes backseat to create a larger than life image. He/she can pull off miracles, tide away near death crises and most importantly do stupid stuff with élan. Amitabh Bachchan is one such star actor. Give him the same material over and over again, he still finds ways to redeem himself. Like the above scene from ‘Majboor’ my father used to rave about.

Infact, star actors are the ones who make us focus on scenes and continue to talk about them much after we watched the full movie. It is they who increase the shelf life of a movie by allowing us to devour the same movie in bits and pieces. Thanks to them, scene based programs had a good run right from Doordarshan (‘Showtime’) to cable TV explosion (‘Kya Scene Hai on Zee’)…and their popularity stayed intact even with the advent of scene aka clip behemoth—Youtube. Even today most of the star actors’ clips are in much demand and more so, of Mr.Bachchan. In a way, both the mediums and the star actors benefited from each other.

We have such star-actors in Hollywood too like Denzel Washington. Fans flock to watch his films and lap up whatever he does. Many even observe his terrific acting in mundane of situations. And once in a while they like to see him beat the sh*t out of villains.

equalizer

‘The Equalizer’ was one such excellent opportunity for Denzel and he did exactly that. On one hand he beat the goons like never before (very well choreographed but violent scenes) and on the other did what he does best, terrific acting like looking into the villain’s eyes on the stairs and telling him he isn’t a pushover. So naturally, when ‘The Equalizer 2’ is out, the expectations are bound to be high, with Denzel reprising a role for the first time ever and also because there were many things you could better in comparison with the first film. And you are bound to be short changed. The disappointment plays out at multiple levels—story, treatment, action scenes and the utilization of Denzel.

One wonders why the urgency to dwell into Robert McCall’s past and pick up themes from there rather than sticking to his legend. The loner vigilante decently built up in the first part is enough to sustain the interest in the sequel (this also reflects in the film’s box office opening numbers) and the writers should have dealt ‘The Equalizer 2’ as a standalone film. The action scenes though start off okay, end up totally out of sync towards the end (with an X-Men Wolverine kind of climax fight set against a hurricane).

But the biggest problem is the star-actor’s effective presentation on the screen. While ‘The Equalizer’ has quite a few scenes that give enough ammunition for the actor Denzel to leave his mark, the sequel dumbs it down and doesn’t really create the ambiance for the actor to shine. Most importantly one misses the confrontation scenes with the main antagonist that is sacrificed in the name of an inane plot twist.

In the end we have a sequel that doesn’t live up the to the original, leaving the audiences/fans unsatisfied.  And it appears in the process the  makers have killed the golden goose. Gold for Denzel fans being he returning in ‘The Equalizer’ avatar again.

Tailpiece:

There is a lot of difference between Bollywood and Hollywood star actors.  An Amitabh could do a Denzel but a Denzel probably coudn’t  an Amitabh. But we might never find out :-)

Related links:

Wow! That Denzel Subtle Confrontation.

Denzel’s ultimate threat

Amitabh at his angry best

Amitabh in a comedy scene

Amitabh’s mass song

 

Kodi Ramakrishna: Forever Dependable

Veteran director Kodi Ramakrishna (one of my father’s favorite directors) dished out quite a few blockbusters during his hey days. In a very old interview he compared a wholesome entertainer to a sumptuous meal. He observed that no matter how big the assortment of items, if you missed out on the essentials like  ‘Avakaya’ pickle Telugus would go unsatisfied.


Films like ‘Ammoru’ and ‘Arundhati’ with their super success would have top-recall value, in the minds of many. But for me these four films stand out as top milestones in his illustrious career.

  1. Ankusam (1989) : For its excellent portrayal of the angst of a police officer; presentation of a unique relationship between a CM of a state and the protagonist; very well executed action scenes specially the one near Charminar.
  2. Satruvu (1991) : For its excellent portrayal of a comic villain (Kota Srinivasa Rao); an interesting blend of family drama with action and thrills, in tune with the latest technical values
  3. Bharath Bandh (1991) : (Once again) for its a terrific presentation of a new villain (Costumes Krishna) and tackling of a tricky subject
  4. Pellam Chebite Vinaali (1992): For its new presentation of an old theme, with daughter-in-law teaching a lesson to her father-in-law.
  5. Daddy Daddy (1998) : For its novel idea of showing snippets from an yester year film as flashback.
  6. Devullu (2000): For its unique concept of a divine multi-starrer film featuring all the popular Gods and deities. Backed by an excellent music score, this film stands out as one of the most interesting take ever on fantasy films, featuring kid sentiment.

Kodi Ramakrishna worked with almost all the top stars (including Mahesh Babu as a kid in ‘Gudachari 117′) and handled different genres.  Other than a few films like ‘Devi Putrudu’ and ‘Anji’, he pretty much stuck to a budget and delivered hits to delight his producers and audiences. And his acting cameos were well received in several films.

Related Links:

Venkatadri Express

“Bird Box”. Unseen Ghost/s

birdbox

In “Bird Box,” Sandra Bullock plays a single mom (Malorie) trying to save her kid’s lives after mysterious forces invade Earth and causes people to kill themselves. Survivors must wear blindfolds or be exposed to supernatural entities (or monsters) that embody their deepest fears and drive them to suicide. Directed by Susanne Bier, this apocalyptic horror film , is based on a novel by Josh Malerman.  Netflix claimed ‘Bird Box’ was watched by more than forty-five million subscribers, a record of sorts.

The premise of the movie is pretty unique, and it starts of well. It works here and there with a few thrills, but overall leaves you unsatisfied. You cannot complain much about the script in a horror set-up but it could have been better. The cast makes it up for the flaws in the script and engages you for most part, making it a watchable fare.

Birds being used as a way to foretell the onset of the monsters like dogs for ghosts is a pretty neat trick. It does remind you of the water ripple in ‘Jurassic Park’ and the associated music. The kids combination just like in ‘Jurassic Park’ and a not-so-good parent taking them to safety, is also a similar theme from the dinosaur movie.

Unlike ‘Jurassic Park’ you never to get to see the dinosaur, but you do bump into infected individuals every now and then.  In ‘Bird Box’ because the whole world is infected or you are unaware whether it is infected or not, Malorie’s  only hope is to follow the radio message and cross the river to safety. An effort similar to the Meryl Streep movie ‘The River wild’. The movie ends a bit like Hitchcock film ‘The Birds’, with birds returning to their habitat (birds were human’s foes in that movie though), and leaving many loose ends, keeping the possibility open for a sequel.

Guess the popular themes of apocalyptic world, escape from monsters, bad parent to good parent, race to survival, world wide calamity etc and the familiarity offered by popular actors, gave the movie its initial draw. Throw in the social marketing of Netflix, it is highly unlikely that anyone interested remotely in these themes would miss it.  The movie reportedly made with a budget of USD19mn is a tad low on production values, but it is enough to make the story believable.

Tailpiece from ‘The NewYorker’

Netflix notoriously doesn’t, in general, report viewership numbers. Yet it couldn’t resist crowing that more than forty-five million subscribers watched “Bird Box” in its first week online. How would it have done in a traditional wide theatrical release? Would it have taken in four hundred million dollars at the box-office in its first week alone? I suspect that its viewership depends upon its low barrier to entry. Even just the extraordinary cast, which also includes John Malkovich, Jacki Weaver, Lil Rel Howery, and Sarah Paulson, is good enough to watch for free. Unfortunately, “Bird Box” puts these performers through familiar paces, in roles of such tight typecasting that they seem like recurring characters in an extended TV series—which may also be part of the secret to the film’s Netflix success- New Yorker

Related Links

“Bird Box,” Reviewed: An Apocalypse Built for Netflix

The Mist
Jurassic Park
Evil Dead
The River Wild

The Birds