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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Passing the Driving Test

My 2nd official short film. Again, this was shot in Al Ain, UAE. My dear readers it is up to you to review this movie. And please place your remarks in the comments section below this article.

Passing the Driving Test:


Thanks in advance for watching/commenting.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Nisar Masoom's The Race

Hi people,

It's been a long time since I've posted a review. University days have been keeping me busy. But I also had the chance to foster my creativity. I give you my first official short film titled The Race. And this time around it is up to you, my dear readers, to review it in your comments.

Thanks for watching in advance. And do share at your convenience.

The Race:


Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Expendables 3 Review

With a plot that could have been derived by a 7-year old, and a mega-ensemble cast of action stars, The Expendables 3 was not bound to impress the majority of top critics. All that glitters is not gold, and this is true for the third outing of this franchise. The Expendables 3 is far from gold, but could still be hailed as silver.

You can tell by the tagline of the above poster of how poorly this film is written. Stallone, Statham, Li, Lundgren, Couture, Crews and Schwarzenegger (still need Wikipedia to spell that correctly) return in this feature. While the list of new veteran actors include Harrison Ford, Wesley Snipes (who is finally out of prison after 3 years), Kelsey Grammer, Antonio Banderas, and Mel Gibson who plays the antagonist (and acts the paramount throughout the running time). And the range of latest young thespians are Kellan Lutz, Ronda Rousey, Glen Powell and Victor Ortiz. 
  Yes, we have a super-action packed line-up of stars. What we don't have is a sane script that all of the actors could have properly done justice to. Let me start with the negative points of the movie, although I began with that from the get-go.
  Firstly, the plot. The ending can be guessed by any casual adrenaline movie-watcher after viewing the first 10 minutes! I mean this is the third venture of The Expendables series. Stallone should have at least taken an extra year to release this film if he wanted a critically acclaimed version. The Expendables 3 is directed by Patrick Hughes and this makes it only his 2nd feature-film. And kudos to his directing ability as the newbie did a fantastic job of handling such a colossal cast. I'm only praising the guy as I am outlining the facts of this film. Now to continue the negativity. The script is penned by the husband-wife duo Rothenberger/Benedikt and Stallone himself (who has also co-written the screenplays of the first 2 installments).
  Rothenberger/Benedikt have only one writing credit before this film and that is the 2013 White House invasion action-thriller Olympus Has Fallen which starred Gerard Butler. And was a pretty damn good movie. So I expected more from them or at least at the same level as OHF when they co-wrote this script. The storyline follows Barney Ross (Stallone) recruiting younger blood for his fight against Conrad Stonebanks (Gibson), the Expendables co-founder who is wanted by the CIA. 
  The tension played between Ross and Stonebanks is mediocre and could have been written more fluently. The predictability level of this venture is high above the bar. I don't mind the plot outline but there was no hard-work done in elevating the thrill throughout the 126-minutes run. Even the universally panned Sabotage (2014) did a better job at creating a dread-filled atmosphere. 
  Also, I saw no need for a younger cast of actors. The Expendables 3 should have added more villains like Steven Seagal or their initial idea of casting Jean-Claude Van Damme again (as the identical twin brother of the main villain in The Expendables 2). There should have been additional opposing characters but all we get is Gibson. The latter who is an old-time action star but never starred in bad-ass films like the majority of the other cast members. So I don't understand the point of only giving him a diabolical role. Stallone should have shunned the idea of budding performers and added more fiends. Also, Bruce Willis was missed in his role as Mr. Church as Ford could not exercise the same level of dialogue delivery in his role as CIA officer Max Drummer.
  The first two films had a variety of villains played by awesome entertainers like Eric Roberts, Steve Austin, Gary Daniels, Scott Adkins and Jean-Claude Van Damme respectively. Here, we only have Gibson while we had at least two in the start-up installments. This factor and the plot are the worst attributes of the third part.
  Now, for the pros: excellent acting by Gibson, Banderas and Stallone. The trio give their best blockbuster performances. The most praise I can give is to Gibson who really nails the bad-guy role. Another major pro is the superb action scenes. Some are, I admit, over-top, but the majority aren't and they're so fun to watch in a theater. I have to recall that the first half-hour of dialogues are completely vague, but when the movie passes its thirty-minutes windows, the conversations between characters were penned quite humorously. And this I can only attribute to the third screenwriting credit. 


  The stunts are awesome, and when the action begins no one wants it to end. The whole atmosphere transforms into a Battlefield map, and we see so many explosions that some would've guessed Michael Bay had filmed this outing. Action is fantastically choreographed throughout the screen-time. And is the dominant highlight of this motion-picture. The Expendables 3 is undoubtedly is the predominant of the three in terms of action.
  The Expendables has a 41% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, whilst the sequel has a 65% approval on the latter website. Both these individual ratings are higher than the 3rd installment's. And I'm not at all surprised. But if you watch this with an action junkie's eye, and not a critic's, then you will thoroughly enjoy the experience. 
  So, The Expendables 3 is way better than the first in the series, but falls short in its totality to The Expendables 2. Not only is the 2nd part the most critically-acclaimed in the franchise, but also the most financially successful gathering $305m at a budget of $100 million. The Expendables 3 has a lesser budget of $90m, but with such a low-scoring start-up weekend it will not be as monetarily rewarding as its predecessor. It will probably end its worldwide run at $150m-$180m becoming the lowest grosser among the series.
  That's not all folks. The Expendables 4 has already been announced and is confirmed to introduce former James Bond star Pierce Brosnan in a role. Just hope it has an above-average script.

The Expendables: 3/4.
The Expendables 2: 3.5/4.
The Expendables 3: 3/4.


Sunday, May 25, 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past review

To declare myself as an X-Men fan would be an understatement. During my early years I used to read a lot of comic books, specially from the X-Men galore. So I might be the number one Pakistani fan of the franchise - might be.

(X-Men comics logo. Source: cartoonfatness.wikia.com)

  X-Men: The Animated Series furthered the need for a Hollywood adaption of the comics series. The 1992 cartoon animation was superb. They directly took the elements of the comics, whilst of course censoring some parts in order for younger viewers to watch the show. In 2009, IGN rated it as the 13th greatest animated show of all time in their Top 100 list.
  The first X-Men film was released in 2000. I have seen it more than a dozen of times. It paved the way for future Marvel-based releases such as the original Spider-Man trilogy and Daredevil. Bryan Singer was signed on to direct the movie in 1996. But the release dates kept being pushed back. Also, Singer originally wanted Russell Crowe to play the lead role but his salary demands were too high. The same story repeated with the offer to Mel Gibson in 1997. In the end, Hugh Jackman was cast and he was an unknown actor at that time.

(Left: Hugh Jackman (aged 31) portraying Wolverine in X-Men. Right: Hugh Jackman aged 44 in Days of Future Past. Source: geeksaresexy.net)

  This led to Hugh Jackman successfully entering the Hollywood limelight. As Fox was already paying Patrick Stewart (Professor X) and Ian McKellen (Magneto) humongous salaries, they could afford a third expensive thespian. Hugh Jackman has gone on to portray Wolverine 7 times on screen, as well as the latest installment Day of Future Past.
  Before going to the grand review of the 7th X-Men film, I'd like to give a short review on the array's previous showcases. The following are arranged from top to bottom according to my preference of the best flicks:

  1. X2: X-Men United (2003) - 87% (Rotten Tomatoes), 3.5/4 (Box Office 101).
  2. The Wolverine (2013) - 69%, 3.5/4.
  3. X-Men (2000) - 82%, 3/4.
  4. X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) - 38%, 3/4.
  5. X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) - 58%, 2.5/4.
  6. X-Men: First Class (2011) - 87%, 2/4.
  The above are categorized according to my ratings. I have watched X2 35 times and never been bored once. The Wolverine really brought out the original comic-book story of Wolverine entering Japan. I was surprised that X-Men: First class was appreciated by critics and fans alike. But I still consider it to the lowest-rated in the list. This is simply due to the fact that 2000's X-Men was a blockbuster and mind-blower. First Class was just made for teenagers. And Wolverine's absence in it was deeply felt (Hugh Jackman's cameo doesn't count).
  Even after all these years, X2 has not had a solid competitor except for 2013's The Wolverine. The rest of the movies fail in story-telling. This is primarily due to the non-involvement of Bryan Singer who directed the first couple of majestic superhero features.
  Bryan Singers is arguably one of my favorite film-makers of all time. He is also known for directing The Usual Suspects, Superman Returns and Valkyrie - all critical successes. The worst decision Singer made was directing Superman Returns instead of The Last Stand. He should have finished the last of the original trilogy before moving on to another project. Alas, Superman Returns flopped badly whilst The Last Stand, released a month prior, was a mega-commercial success.

(X-Men: Days of Future Past poster. Source: Wikipedia.)


Now for X-Men: Days of Future Past. This marks Bryan Singer's official return as director to the franchise. I am sure if Matthew Vaughn (X-Men: First Class) had directed this, it would only have been half as great. Still, Vaughn acted as a producer. Singer had previously worked as a producer on Vaughn's film.
  The film is based on the 1981 comics storyline of the same name. It was written by Chris Claremont and John Byrne. It is considered one of the best comic books of the X-Men universe and my own personal favorite. Simon Kinberg adapted the comic book brilliantly, although it's an 80% accurate depiction of the original.

(Director Bryan Singer. Source: Wikipedia)

  The late critic Roger Ebert stated that X2 was a superb film due to Singer's ability to handle so many characters in one outing. So it came as no surprise when the number of figures was doubled in Days of Future Past. The latter movie had almost all of the mutants in the X-Men universe, especially those in the comic book. 
  Steven Soderbergh is also known for handling many characters (as seen in the Oceans trilogy). But he cannot even come close to Singer's brilliant. My other most-favorite  directors are Christopher Nolan, John Carpenter, Wes Craven and Sam Raimi. But Singer tops the list.
  Days of Future Past starts with incredible action scenes. By the first five minutes of the movie, I knew that this would be the ultimate X-Men feature. The mutant costumes in the future are astounding. And do pay homage to initial storyline. The movie does get slow in the middle, but only due to the heart-pounding action that follows. There are many new X-Men characters introduced who were not part of the previous parts: Bishop (played by Omar Sy), Warpath (Booboo Stewart), Blink (Fan Bingbing), Sunspot (Adam Canto), and Quicksilver played by Evan Peters (played the part to precision I might add).
  These mutants were very prominent in the comic-book specially Bishop. And all the actors portraying them gave justice to their roles. Old mutants, and the actors who played them, also return: Iceman (Shawn Ashmore), Shadowcat (Ellen Page), Storm (Halle Berry), and Colossus played by Daniel Cudmore.
  I was so excited to see these characters and actors back. I have always despised the cast of First Class except for Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence. The rest were tedious. But in Days of Future Past, I was proved wrong about the acting prowess of James McAvoy (Wanted, X-Men: First Class). As a younger, depressed Professor Xavier he really made my spine tingle with fascination. I still criticize his acting ability in First Class, but he was second-best in enactment only to Hugh Jackman.
  When I initially saw the trailer of Days of Future Past, I knew the producers would not want the franchise to move forward without Wolverine in the installment. The character has had two superhit stand-alone films so the producers knew height of Wolverine's popularity. The X-Men franchise is openly nothing without Wolverine. He is the most berserk of all anti-heroes. And Jackman has portrayed him seven times, and will again in the next installment titled X-Men: Apocalypse.
  Three mutants have supreme screentime: Wolverine, Professor X and Magneto. All are given enough space to perform. The plot follows Wolverine being sent back in time by Shadowcat in order to secure the future. The dystopian world shown in the future is magnificent in design. The sets were excellent. And the quality of the past in comparison of the future is rendered perfectly. Wolverine wakes up in 1973, 50 years back in time. He must convince the younger Professor X and Magneto to work together, and stop the onset of the Sentinels. The Sentinels are the prime antagonists of the comic-book series. They are giant robots who enslave/kill all the mutants on earth. In the movie, they are illustrated as to provoke fear in the audience, and they do it so well. The Sentinels (both past and future) were terrifying and kudos to the design team. 
  The film shows primarily two timelines continuously: past and future, hence its strange title. Bryan Singers also adds humor to the mix which is led by the funny antics of Quicksilver. And the movie is sad, funny, adventurous, and mainly fun at all times.

(Days of Future Past alternate poster. Source: graffitiwithpunctuation.net)



  If there were any cons to point out those would be insignificant. I only detected one disadvantage, and that was that the many confusions of the previous installments were not fully explained here, as Singer had promised to the fans. Still, with the approval rate of 95% of spectators on Rotten Tomatoes, and also mine, the plot-holes are forgiven. Also, it was not Singer's fault that were errors as he had only directed the foremost couple of ventures.
  Days of Future Past has one element of a superhero that many do not: suspense. It is unpredictable in every scene. And the ending is incredible. One quality I noticed is that of the screenplay. Bolivar Trask (played by Game of Thrones star Peter Dinklage) represents a Capitalist leader. He wishes to capture/annihilate all mutants in the world through his Sentinel program. Magneto is clearly a Fascist as he believes mutants are above all humans. And Professor Xavier is a Socialist who wants equal rights to both parties.
  This discrete political theme is what makes DoFP such a different superhero movie. It has many heroes, like The Avengers, but there is so much meaning and depth in the venture. It has robots and futuristic technology like many sci-fi films, yet they all lead to a bigger picture. It has comedy and this is reminiscent of the early Star Wars trilogy that mixed action and satire so profoundly.
  DoFP begins where First Class failed. It is a more of a mature movie than FC ever was. First Class was as I mentioned before a teenager flick. DoFP discusses on many issues of the society. If one race is superior in strength to the other, does it mean it has the right to dominate mankind? Does genetics play a grandiose role in promoting survival of the fittest? So many questions are asked in the 123-min running time.
  In conclusion, DoFP is not an X-Men movie, it is the X-Men movie. It is the ultimate mutant motion-picture. It is the return of Bryan Singer and cements his position as the true X-Men film-maker. In 2016, we will see the sequel to DoFP that takes place in the 80s called X-Men: Apocalypse. This will be followed by the third Wolverine moving-picture in 2017. Both sequels will feature Jackman as Wolverine again, and rightfully so. I cannot imagine anyone honoring the role better.
  Apocalypse is the most powerful mutant in the X-Men universe. He is 5,000 years old and is immortal. With Singer directing I can already imagine it being another critical and commercial hit. But it will be hard to surpass DoFP in both directing and writing as it is so perfect.
  DoFP is written by Simon Kinberg also known for Sherlock Holmes and Elysium. With those credits, it was easy to forecast the cinematic greatness of DoFP. He is also attached to work on the sequel and will hopefully work on the screenplay again. DoFP is based on a story by Kinberg, Matthew Vaughn (director/co-writer of First Class) and Jane Goldman (also co-writer of First Class), and the storyline takes its title and influence from the Marvel storyline created by Chris Claremont and John Byrne.
  As of May 25, 2014 DoFP has achieved a massive opening of $261m worldwide on a budget of $200 million. This is a total of only two days including the Thursday late-night showings' bulk. The film will likely end its theatrical status with $800m to 1 billion dollars at the international box office. This evidently paves the way for the potentiality of the upcoming installments.
  Also, be sure to watch the post-credits scene. Like in all Marvel adaptations, there is one, and the spectacle is awe-inspiring.
  

IMDb: 8.7/10.
Rotten Tomatoes: 91%.
BO101: 4/4.


  

  
  
  



Godzilla: A Mon-Star Review

If Godzilla is the King of Monsters, then Godzilla (2014) is its rightful throne. This is the third Hollywood-based Godzilla film with the preceding ones releasing in 1956 and 1998 respectively. Originally, the Godzilla film franchise started with Godzilla (1954). It was directed by Japanese directorial legend Ishiro Honda. The universal critical and commercial success of the formerly-mentioned film led to the American versions, and also 28 films that were produced by Japan.

( The 1998 Godzilla movie poster. Source: Wikipedia)


  But these 28 films did not use CGI as seen in the 1998 and 2014 Americanized productions. Instead, they used costumes and props, even into the late 20th and early 21st century.
  The foremost Godzilla was inspired by the 1952 re-release of the 1933 King Kong feature. Now, reviewing Godzilla (2014) as separate from the 1998 version will be expansive. To put their comparison into simple terms: Godzilla (1998) made a bit over $379m worldwide off a massive budget of $130 million. But the producers wanted it to earn a lot more (they wanted it to beat Jurassic Park: The Lost World's $618.6m international revenue, which was released a year prior). And as you can clearly picture, it did not even come close. 
  Not only that, but the super negative reception from critics and fans of both American and Japanese nationality held off all plans for the forthcoming couple of sequels. The film currently has 25% on Rotten Tomatoes, with a 28% approval rate from the audiences on that website. As I have also seen the movie, I can honestly say that it was an epic fail.

(The 2014 Godzilla poster. Source: Wikipedia)

  Let's move on to this year's blockbuster. Godzilla is clearly 10 times better than its 1998 counterpart. But it also has its flaws. But I will start with the pros. The special effects in this film is top-class. The graphical design of Godzilla and the other monsters is indisputable. I have never seen better computer imagery of such caliber not even in Peter Jackson's King Kong (2005). 
  Katy Perry claimed that she was louder than a lion and we could hear her Roar. But the first scene of Godzilla's ROAR! really shook spectators in their seats. I watched the movie in IMAX 3-D with friends and believe me that cinematic sequence was unimaginably deafening.  
  The plot: Godzilla is awaken to fight off two fiendish creatures approximately identical to his stature. And the fate of human existence is put to the test. 
  So therein lie the cons of the movie. The first hour of the 123-mins feature is primarily rumbles and shakes of the ground coupled by bad weather. The actors in the movie are extremely dull. Aaron Taylor-Johnson is the main protagonist but his demeanor makes one wish to sleep in the first half. Ken Watanabe, a great actor, plays his role as a Japanese scientist monotonously. Elizabeth Olsen seems oblivious to everything going on around her. And even the audience might have been more aware of the surroundings in the movie than her.
  Yet there is a light in the darkness: Bryan Cranston. The Breaking Bad star does not get a lot of screen-time. Still, he manages to play his role tremendously well. Without him, all the acting would have been left to despair. His antics as a depressed scientist and the showcase of his Godzilla obsession was fantastic. 

(Bryan Cranston as seen in Godzilla. Source: businessinsider.com)

  What was so critically acceptable about Jurassic Park (1993)?. It has a 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Why? Because it was able to merge interesting characters with colossal monsters. It had equally comic parts as well as terrifying shots. This is what directors have been trying to do with disaster films ever since Spielberg's classic rendition of the genre.
  Godzilla does succeed in disturbing audiences with its spine-chilling atmosphere of desolation. Though the film would have gained much more critically if it were not so dark.. There are almost no funny sequences in the movie. It is like the world had already been devastated from the onset of the flick. I personally felt that the movie needed a more substantial ending.
  Also, we don't see much of the fight between Godzilla and the other monsters. Just American soldiers' heroic yet stupid schemes to eliminate Godzilla when he is clearly not killing humans intentionally. So with bad performances from all the actors except Cranston, a thin plot that could have been more unpredictable, and a lackluster finish,  Godzilla is a feature with a median rating.
  Godzilla is directed by Gareth Edwards and written by Max Borenstein, with a screen story by David Callaham. It has made $229.6m globally as of May 23, 2014 with a budget of $160 million. It will likely end its theatrical run between $600m and $800m.
  When asked I always declare that Godzilla is not a must-watch movie, but it is a movie worth watching in the cinema. Furthermore, worth the watch in IMAX (3-D or 2-D, it doesn't matter), or normal 3-D. So that you get the totality of the humongous size of Godzilla, and the other monsters.

IMDb: 7.3/10.
Rotten Tomatoes: 73%.
BO101: 2.5/4.


  



Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Tokarev - A Short Review

Despite the absurd rating of 5.1/10 from IMDb, Tokarev (2014) delivers what it had promised by the trailer. Two main highlights are firstly, one of Hollywood's veteran actors Nicolas Cage proves he can act no matter what the role. And secondly, the film stars one of the world's most beautiful women Rachel Nichols:

(Wikipedia)

The plot is simple, with many claiming it to be a copycat of 2008's Taken - yet it is highly distinct. In the sense that Taken is an action thriller and Tokarev is an action drama.
  Nicolas Cage stars as Paul Maguire whose daughter is kidnapped by the Russian mob. Now, Maguire is a retired gunman from the Italian mob, and is living on a clean slate. The movie follows his relapse to the old ways, and each choice is determinant of what the result of his daughter's position might be.

(IMDb)

  To start with the pros, Cage's last movie was The Frozen Ground where he acted tremendously well. Another movie similar to Taken and Tokarev is 2012's Stolen, which is a worst Nicolas Cage feature.
  In Tokarev, Cage cannot be judged on an impersonation meter. This is because his dialogue delivery, and outfit, all play homage to an ultimate definition which he gave to his character. He portrays the role with every fiber of his being. When he expresses his sadness, the viewer does the same. When he shows rage, the audiences feels the adrenaline.
  Finally, Tokarev gets 3 out of 4 stars from me. The cons are that there are many plot-holes. Some scenes are just too cliched. But with the superb enactment of the lead star, and the unpredictable ending, Tokarev has already been included in my Favorite Action Drama Flicks of 2014.

A Tribute to Omar Sharif

Omar Sharif was born in Alexandria, Egypt in the year 1932, on April 10th. His birth name was Michel Demitri Shalhoub. He converted to Islam later on, in order to marry the actress Faten Hamama, in 1954.

(Wikipedia)

  I have only seen one film of Mr. Sharif till now: Doctor Zhivago. This is a Hollywood production as Mr. Sharif has worked in both American and Egyptian theater. Doctor Zhivago is based on the novel of the same name by Boris Pasternak. Released in 1965, it is the eighth-highest grossing film of all time, when adjusted for inflation. It made over $110 million on a budget of $11 million. 

(Paperwhitescreensavers.tumblr.com)

The flick's main plot concerns the titular character of Yuri Zhivago (Omar Sharif), and his hardships faced during the Russian Revolution. Director Sir David Lean (also renowned for Lawrence of Arabia) shot almost all scenes with superb realism.
  It is well to note that Mr. Sharif was the lead actor, but many supporting actors also did their jobs remarkably. Julie Christie had a lot of screen-time portraying the heroine Lara Antipov. Although, it was shocking that she was nominated neither for an Academy Award, nor a Golden Globe.  
  Omar Sharif won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor, but similarly to Ms. Christie, he surprisingly did not obtain an Oscar nod.
  Mr. Sharif's career has spun over fifty years. He has starred in over fifty movies encompassing the Hollywood and Egyptian film-industry. He has appeared in many critically-acclaimed Arabic TV shows. Also, he has played over ten different nationalities with ultimate showmanship.
  Omar Sharif retired in 2009. But made a comeback in 2013 with the French-Moroccan movie Rock the Casbah - playing a rich businessman. Mr. Sharif might be 82, yet it looks like he has a long way to go before immortalizing his legacy.