Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Jurassic World (2015) - Recap and Review

Indominus Rex Jurassic World poster wallpaper image screensaver picture

2015 seems to be the year of rebooting/revisiting old movie franchises. Not one but two of them. And both of them have one excellent movie in them, surrounded by others that range from above average to abysmal.

Before Terminator Genisys hits the theatres on July 01, the latest entry in the Jurassic Park franchise arrived couple of weeks back. Jurassic World has everything a moviegoer can ask for - a hero enjoying a hot streak in popular culture (Chris Pratt), a lot of larger than life special effects (CGI dinosaurs) and abundance of nostalgia to wallow in (courtesy of Jurassic Park and the evergreen John Williams score). It is no surprise that the movie has made gazillion amounts of money and broken several box office records.

But is box office success a true indicator of the quality of a movie...

It is park time again and people are flocking to the latest Jurassic park attraction at Isla Nublar. The man in charge, Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan) holds the ideals of the founder, John Hammond close to his heart. Dr. Henry Wu (B. D. Wong) and his team of scientists have cooked up a new dinosaur, Indominus Rex that combines the characteristic traits of several animals.

Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) is the park's operations manager and is too busy with her work to even remember her nephew's names. These lads,  Zach Mitchell (Nick Robinson) and Gray Mitchell (Ty Simpkins) are sent by their parents, Karen (Judy Greer) and Scott (Andy Buckley), so that they can be the movie's dudes-in-distress, to be rescued time and again by Claire and the alpha male, Owen Grady (Chris Pratt).


Chris Pratt alpha male Owen Grady Jurassic World poster wallpaper image picture screensaver

Owen is the trainer of the Velociraptor pack (Blue, Charlie, Delta and Echo). Simon hires him to use his expertise in handling the as-yet-untested Indominus Rex. Like any sensible action blockbuster movie hero, Owen warns the park management that the new dinosaur is a disaster waiting to happen. And like any greedy businessmen would do in a big budget movie, they insist on going ahead with their plans.

Yes, all hell breaks loose and the Indominus Rex escapes its enclosure using a rather ingenious plan. It fools the authorities (including Owen) into thinking that it has already escaped by not only camouflaging itself from the sensors but also inflicting scratch marks upon the gate. Of course, the fact that the gate is still intact and not trampled upon or bent in any way is conveniently overlooked.

Rest of the movie is strictly a by-the-book affair: Lovers are reunited, people realize the value of families and the Evil Dinosaur dies.

Jurassic World represents the typical escapist entertainment that Steven Spielberg has perfected since the 1970s. Ever since he single-handedly doomed the future of Great White Sharks with Jaws (1975), he has been churning out Man Vs Nature nonsense at regular intervals. The most famous example, obviously being Jurassic Park (1994) and its sequel, The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997). He did not direct Jurassic Park III (2001), even though that did not stop him from reaping the profits as an executive producer, just like he did on this movie.


Mosasaurus chasing killing eating great white shark Jurassic World poster image picture wallpaper screensaver

Well, at least unlike the unfortunate sharks, the dinosaurs are already extinct. So nature lovers need not fear any public upheaval against these animals. But Spielberg is not done with sharks yet... To show the sheer size of the Mosasaurus, he has the huge lizard jumping out of water and swallowing a fully grown shark whole. This was the money shot used in the trailer to get public's attention right from the start...

As Spiderman's uncle Ben Parker used to say: With great power comes great responsibility. Spielberg's motto seems to be: “Screw responsibility. Demonize Sharks/Nature and with that comes a great fortune”.

Moving on to Chris Pratt... He has to be one of the luckiest actors to work in Hollywood. After earning the lead role in a Marvel movie, now he is the lead actor in the movie that has grossed over 1 Billion USD in 13 days. I am sure Taylor Kitsch must be cursing his luck..

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Ron Howard's attempts to make his daughter Bryce Dallas Howard a big star in Hollywood have finally paid off. Bryce has been in a number of high profile movies over the past decade (Spider-Man 3Terminator SalvationThe Twilight Saga: Eclipse, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2, Lady in the Water). She must have had a very special Father's Day yesterday.

As to her performance in this movie, it is as bland and unappealing as she has been in the other movies she has done before. Her character is quite unrealistic and can only exist in a movie for the sole purpose of turning over a new leaf and becoming a normal human being by the end.


Scream Kings Nick Robinson Zach Ty Simpkins Gray Jurassic World

The kids in peril role are essayed by Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins. Nick's character (like Bryce's) does not believe in family relationships and... abracadabra! he has a heart-to-heart talk with Ty's character and they are brothers forever. Cliched scenes and plot development like these abound.

The special effects are adequate and not exceptional as was the case with the original movie 21 years ago. The director, Colin Trevorrow (no doubt under the supervision of Spielberg) shrewdly reuses the memorable John Williams soundtrack at crucial scenes in the movie. There are also other nods to the original movie.

In a nutshell: Resist the need to indulge in nostalgia and revisit the original movie instead. Even better, watch a documentary featuring real animals and enjoy Nature.

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Image Source: Amblin Entertainment, China Film Co., Legendary Pictures, Universal Pictures

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Sunday, June 21, 2015

Russian Holmes Review - "The Mistress of Lord Maulbrey" - Episode # 4

Russian Sherlock Holmes John Watson fireplace 221 B Baker Street new Russian Sherlock Holmes 2013 TV Series

At 221 B Baker Street, Sherlock Holmes (Igor Petrenko) receives his latest client: Elizabeth Baker (Olga Krasko). Elizabeth believes that she will become the fifth victim of a serial killer. This murderer kills women at night and reminded me of the infamous Jack the Ripper.

Elizabeth thinks she is being stalked by the killer and even receives a handwritten note from him asking for a date. Sherlock convinces her father that she will not come to harm and that she should meet this person at the time and place as mentioned in his note.

This would-be murderer turns out to be one Henry Thomas Calloway. He is apprehended by Holmes and Watson. The court sentences him the death punishment by hanging.

Sherlock deduces that there is more to this case than meets the eye. He sets out with Watson to the Bakers' residence and discover that the family has packed everything and moved out.

Holmes realizes that Henry is innocent and saves him from being hanged to death. Henry confesses that he was in debt for 1200 pounds to a certain Gilbert Roy (Leonid Timtsunik).

Henry finds an unlikely rescuer in the form of one Bernard Buckley, who offers him the amount if Henry will follow and eventually make Elizabeth Baker fall in love with him.

Holmes deduces that Buckley is none other than Professor Moriarty himself. Now, Sherlock and Dr Watson have to apprehend the mysterious Gilbert Roy.

Russian John Watson binoculars Sherlock Holmes 2013 Episode 4 The Mistress of Lord Maulbrey

Canonical References

1. Dr Watson asks Sherlock if only puzzles interest him and not the human involved. Sherlock replies that the concerned person is distant to him and is just a part of the puzzle -  In The Sign of the Four, Sherlock Holmes does not notice the physical beauty of his client, Mary Morstan and explains to Dr Watson: “A client is to me a mere unit, a factor in a problem. The emotional qualities are antagonistic to clear reasoning”.

2. Henry Calloway's physical appearance and simplicity in reciting his background and the way the people around him reacted with suppressed laughter - This reminded me of Jabez Wilson from The Adventure of the Red-Headed League. In this original story, Jabez is a simpleton who was duped by his new employee, Vincent Spaulding/John Clay by a patently obvious lie. Holmes and Watson fought hard to suppress their laughter while listening to his story at 221 B.

3. The way Holmes predicts that Buckley wears glasses with blue lenses and Henry's complete surprise - In The Adventure of the Retired Colorman, Sherlock Holmes leaves Dr Watson stunned by his description of Mr. Barker as a tall, dark, heavily mustached man, you say, with gray-tinted sun-glasses. Holmes knew the Surrey detective from past encounters.

4. Gilbert Roy uses a poisoned dart to kill his victims including the notary, Robert Kibby - In The Sign of the Four, Tonga is an pygmy Andaman Islander and the trusted ally of Jonathan Small. Tonga uses poison darts to kill Bartholomew Sholto and makes an unsuccessful attempt on the lives of Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson during the chase on River Thames.

5. When Sherlock mentions the name of Moriarty as being the person responsible, everyone at the Scotland Yard laugh at him out of disbelief. Inspector Lestrade also mentions that there is no police files maintained for such a name anywhere in the world. - In The Valley of Fear, when Sherlock Holmes mentions the name of Professor Moriarty as being the mastermind behind the murder of John Douglas of Birlstone Manor House, Dr Watson records the Scotland Yard Inspector's reaction as thus: “Inspector MacDonald smiled, and his eyelid quivered as he glanced towards me. "I won't conceal from you, Mr. Holmes, that we think in the C.I.D. that you have a wee bit of a bee in your bonnet over this professor. I made some inquiries myself about the matter. He seems to be a very respectable, learned, and talented sort of man." ”


Leonid Timtsunik Gilbert Roy Russian Sherlock Holmes Episode 4 The Mistress of Lord Maulbrey

6. Sherlock instructs Inspector Lestrade to find the theater actors who impersonated as Elizabeth Baker's parents - In A Study in Scarlet, after he is duped by the elderly Mrs. Sawyer” who claims that the ring belongs to her daughter, Holmes explains to Dr Watson: “Old woman be damned!... We were the old women to be so taken in. It must have been a young man, and an active one, too, besides being an incomparable actor. The get-up was inimitable.”

7. Sherlock deduces the brand of tobacco (smoked by Mr Bishop) as Dorwood's Special”. Later, he deduces the cigar (retrieved by Dr Watson from Gilbert Roy's office) to be of The Royal Caribbean brand - 
Sherlock Holmes states to Dr John Watson in The Sign of the Four: “...Yes, I have been guilty of several monographs. They are all upon technical subjects. Here, for example, is one 'Upon the Distinction between the Ashes of the Various Tobaccoes.' In it I enumerate a hundred and forty forms of cigar-, cigarette-, and pipe-tobacco, with colored plates illustrating the difference in the ash. It is a point which is continually turning up in criminal trials, and which is sometimes of supreme importance as a clue.

8. When Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson surprise Mrs Hudson by coming through the backdoor, she gets angry and threatens that not only will she take away his key, but also will change the lock itself. Holmes replies that he has a latchkey to every lock - In The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton, Holmes explains to Dr Watson: “You know, Watson, I don't mind confessing to you that I have always had an idea that I would have made a highly efficient criminal....This is a first-class, up-to-date burgling kit, with nickel-plated jemmy, diamond-tipped glass-cutter, adaptable keys, and every modern improvement which the march of civilization demands.” 

9. Sherlock Holmes does some chemical experiments and figures out that the dart used by Gilbert Roy contained Mertsius, which happens to be a poison of an Australian frog - In A Study in ScarletDr Watson mentions that Sherlock Holmes is “Well up in belladonna, opium, and poisons generally.”


Russian Sherlock Holmes Episode 4 The Mistress of Lord Maulbrey Olga Krasko Elizabeth Baker

The acting continues to be solid all around. Olga Krasko and Leonid Timtsunik are the guest stars in this episode. Both of them do a great job in their respective roles.

The constant bickering between Sherlock and Inspector Lestrade are the highlights of this episode. The way Sherlock bargains with Lestrade for time to solve the mystery and the way he scolds Lestrade for not doing the due diligence necessary to catch the real killer was classic Holmes.

However, one point where the episode falters is in showing Sherlock Holmes' fighting skills. In the Canon, both Holmes and Dr Watson are able fighters, more than capable of taking care of themselves in a confrontation.

In the first episode, Dr Watson dispatches no less than four street toughs easily and then beats a much bigger opponent in a boxing match. But this time, he is unable to defeat Gilbert Roy and even the added presence of Sherlock is not enough to turn the odd in our heroes' favor.

But then, the episode would have been over, had Roy been apprehended right then.

This lack of fighting skills on the part of Petrenko's Holmes is a significant deviation from the Canonical version, who is a skilled boxer.

However, Dr Watson acquits himself when he helps the police catch the fleeing Gilbert by shooting him in the leg correctly, proving his sharpshooter skills.

The growing attraction between Dr Watson and Mrs Hudson is portrayed subtly but effectively.

The sets and costumes are top notch. Kudos to the team for their dedication. The show has a light tone and a strong sense of humor. The references to Alphonse Bertillon and Francis Galton were a nice touch. As was the kid wearing the deerstalker.

Highly recommended to fans of Sherlock Holmes.

Special thanks to Spiritcc for the high resolution pictures.

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Image Sources: Channel One Russia, Central Partnership, Spiritcc.tumblr.com

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Monday, June 15, 2015

Justice League: Gods and Monsters Chronicles "Bomb" "Big" - Recap and Review

Mexican Superman Son of Zod Justice League Gods and Monsters Chronicles Bomb poster image picture screensaver wallpaper

Spoilers ahead. Readers who wish to avoid spoilers are recommended to skip the post.

The second and third episodes of Justice League: Gods and Monsters Chronicles debuted online few days back. This series features alternate versions of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman.

The first one, Twisted” featured Kirk Langstrom (the Man-Bat) version of Batman.

The second episode (Bomb) features a Superman, who is not the son of Zor-El, but of General Zod and is raised by Mexican immigrants.

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This Superman is not a friendly one and the Government has created Brainiac to keep the super-powered being under check. But plans do not go as expected and it is Brainiac who needs to be controlled. As can be expected, military and other forces are unsuccessful in their attempts.

The Government led by Amanda Waller is forced to take Superman's help. Brainiac is a lost child, unable to control his powers. Superman has no choice but to kill him. This decision pains Superman, but nevertheless does it in order for the greater good.

This was a pretty boring take on the Man of Steel. I am saying this as being a long time fan of the character. The scenes between Superman and the infant Brainiac were very cliched.

The animation and voice work was OK.


Wonder Woman Bekka Justice League Gods and Monsters Chronicles Big poster image picture screensaver wallpaper

The next one, Big focussed on the Bekka version of Wonder Woman (WW). Bekka is a New God of New Genesis, the daughter of Himon and the wife of Orion.

The entire episode is how she saves Steve Trevor from Kobra and the big android, Giganta - essentially one long action scene. The Batman episode too had a similar simple plot, but at least it had a far more interesting setup and a villain.

But this one has no such redeeming factors. The only characterization for WW is that she is a nymphomaniac. This is so strongly emphasized that at the end, WW forces Trevor to have sex with her. This is what I called Elementrification of a classic character.

To clarify: Elementary is a CBS TV show that is supposedly an adaptation of the classic literary character, Sherlock Holmes. Instead, it is just a mockery of the character and the genius of Arthur Conan Doyle. Jonny Lee Miller's version craves for sex with as many women as possible (sometimes even having threesome) while the original version did not trust women and kept a safe distance from them.

Here's hoping that the movie will be better than what we have seen so far.

Update: I saw the movie and enjoyed it. Click here to read my review of the movie.

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Image Sources: DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Animation, Warner Premiere 

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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Justice League: Gods and Monsters Chronicles "Twisted" - Recap and Review

Justice League Gods and Monsters Chronicles poster image picture screensaver wallpaper

The upcoming DC Universe Animated Original Movie is Justice League: Gods and Monsters. The movie features alternate versions of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman.

The story is credited to Bruce Timm and Alan Burnett, both of whom have worked on some of the best DC Animated projects including Batman: The Animated Series and Superman.

Spoilers ahead. Readers who wish to avoid spoilers are recommended to skip the post.

As a sort of prequel/primer to the characters, DC Entertainment has released a companion series consisting of three videos. The first one, Twisted” is focused (no surprises here) on Batman. In this universe, it is not the human Bruce Wayne but Kirk Langstrom (the Man-Bat) who is Batman.


Vampire Batman Kirk Langstrom Justice League Gods and Monsters Chronicles Twisted poster image picture screensaver wallpaper

He arrives at a house whose family members have been brutally killed by an even-more-crazier-than-usual Harley Quinn. Batman does save one remaining family member just as she is about to become the last victim. Batman subdues Harley, but instead of taking her to the police, takes a bite out of her.

This series has a strong tone of horror. The animation was OK. Not bad, but not exceptional either. Hopefully, the movie will fare better.

The next two will feature Superman and Wonder Woman. Like Batman, they too have been given a twist (pun intended). Superman is not the son of Zor-El, but of General Zod and is raised by Mexican immigrants.

Wonder Woman is not the Princess Diana of Themyscira, but is Bekka. Bekka is a New God of New Genesis, the daughter of Himon and the wife of Orion.

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Update: I saw the movie and enjoyed it. Click here to read my review of the movie.

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Image Sources: DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Animation, Warner Premiere 

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Saturday, June 6, 2015

Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox - Recap and Review

Barry Allen The Flash Eobard Thawne Reverse Flash race each other in Justice League The Flashpoint Paradox

This post contains spoilers for the movie. Readers who are yet to see it are recommended to skip the review, if they wish to avoid details.

Barry Allen tries to save his mother, Nora Allen from dying and unknowingly alters the timeline and sets up an alternate reality in which:
1. Superman lands in Metropolis, not at the Kent's farm and is held as a government captive
2. Bruce Wayne dies and Thomas Wayne becomes the Batman. He is not above using bullets on people.
3. Wonder Woman (WW), usually referred to as Princess Diana of Themyscira, is now the Queen and lacks the morality of her usual self.
4. Flash himself has lost his superpowers


Superman alternate universe Justice League The Flashpoint Paradox

Aquaman is romantically involved with WW and Mera confronts the Amazon in anger. WW kills Mera and Aquaman is forced to declare war against the Amazons. The all-out war results in world-wide destruction.

Cyborg tries to get Batman's help in his efforts to stop the war. But Batman has no interest in any heroics. This is the bleak universe that Flash wakes up to. Barry has to find a way to save the world and restore the world back to its normal timeline/reality.

Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox represents yet another massive win for DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Animation. Jay Oliva (Batman: Assault on Arkham, Justice League: War) is fast becoming my favorite director in the DC Animated Movies Universe.


Reverse Flash Captain Cold Heat Wave in Justice League The Flashpoint Paradox and CW Flash TV Show

The voice cast includes Justin Chambers as The Flash/Barry Allen, Michael B. Jordan as Cyborg/Victor Stone, Kevin McKidd as Batman/Thomas Wayne, Kevin Conroy as Bruce Wayne/Batman, Sam Daly as Superman, Nathan Fillion Green Lantern/Hal Jordan and C. Thomas Howell as Professor Zoom/Eobard Thawne. Interestingly, Ron Perlman voices Deathstroke/Slade Wilson.

This movie probably has the best animation among the DC Universe Animated Original Movies and considering the high standards of these movies, this is quite an achievement. The work is truly stunning and showcases the technical proficiency of the artists and animators. This is a team effort and Hats off to all of them.


Barry Allen Flash Batman Thomas Wayne Batplane Justice League The Flashpoint Paradox

The movie is a celebration of the pantheon of DC Comics characters. From big guns like Supes, Bats and Lex Luthor to relatively lesser known ones like Clayface and Steve Trevor - the movie presents the familiar faces in a new perspective.

It is refreshing to see different versions of our favorite characters. Cyborg, Batman and Flash have the maximum screen-time. Superman and Hal Jordan have glorious cameos. If only they could have found a way to include Martian Manhunter....

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DC Comic fans are sure to love Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox - I did.

Check out the trailer below:



This is a must watch for fans of DC Comics. Click here to read all my posts about DC Comics.

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