Friday, September 23, 2016

The Legend of Tarzan doesn't live up to its legacy

Just when you think you've had enough of 2016 summer blockbusters, you come across a film with a recognizable name, but no familiarity with its source material. The Legend of Tarzan (2016) is a movie which would've been better off unproduced.

The Plot: Tarzan and Jane are happily settled in London, but when there's a sudden danger reported in Africa, our protagonist must visit his homeland once more.

The Good and The Bad: I disliked this flick so much that it was difficult for me to find any positivity from it. I reckon that the single saving grace was Samuel L. Jackson's portrayal of George Washington Williams. Jackson showcased humor at the right time. And his sarcasm was spot on just when you'd think there was no hint of versatility in the narrative.

The CGI was bearable, although given its $180 million budget, it could've been better. The animals were sleekly designed and overall the cinematography was average. I preferred the darkened scenes over the lit-up ones. The venture in its 110 minutes duration, heavily relied on style over substance, just like for the casting of the main role.

Alexander Skarsgard looks super awesome as Tarzan yet his acting was like a muscular wax figure had been given the gift of life. Margot Robbie was brilliant as Jane but maybe more so because she suited the role than due to her talent. I was shocked that Christoph Waltz and Djimon Hounsou, both Oscar-nodded actors, wasted their skills in this flick. Waltz looked more like a Bond villain throughout the picture, and Hounsou seemed like he starred just to pass the time as Chief Mbonga.

The script by Adam Cozad and Craig Brewer was just bad. There are too many small plotlines incorporated into the central narrative. And not only is the movie's usage of flashbacks generic, but its predictability level is quite high, with the conclusion becoming foreseeable just after the initial hour has passed.

David Yates, the director, should have spent more time adapting the screenplay properly than relying on Jackson and Waltz to shift focus away from the clich├ęs that this feature offered on a grand scale. The characterization was good, the action was moderate, but without a unique take on the story, the end-result was a failure.

The Verdict: To view The Legend of Tarzan as holiday entertainment, and not on a serious note, is the only way it can be watched. It's safe to declare that Hollywood has made Tarzan more of a brand name instead of trying to revive a legacy long forgotten. 

The Rating: 1 out of 4. 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Shallows (2016) - A Review

The Shallows (2016) has been generally classified as a horror flick, but it comes out as more of an exhibition of survival.

The Plot: A mere 200 yards from shore, surfer Nancy is attacked by a great white shark, with her short journey to safety becoming the ultimate contest of wills. (IMDb)

The Good: Some years ago I attended a course called Production Practices 1 at my university. There another student asked the professor that what would he do if he had limited resources but wanted to make a proper thriller. The professor told him that if you want to make any kind of feature properly then utilize the resources already at your disposal.

So, that is where The Shallows succeeds brilliantly. It doesn't have much to offer narrative-wise, and by viewing the trailer you could easily see that $17 million as a production cost was intelligently utilized. And the worldwide gross of $99 million ensured that everything paid off. 

These resources not only included the hiring of only one famous thespian, but also that the rest of the cast was smartly included at the right moments. We have Mexican locals as Nancy is an American tourist. And these locals range from the friendly ride-giver, to fellow surfers, and even a drunk middle-aged man (wait for his appearance because it's the funniest sequence in this venture).

Another positive factor is Blake Lively's lead performance as Nancy. Not only does the actress look hot in a bikini but she manages to pull off a strong, will-driven act throughout the 86-minutes duration. The CGI-created shark is also to fear but it's all down to how Nancy will fight to her last breath to survive.

The Bad: However, Anthony Janswinki's script didn't promise more than what you watched in the trailer. Sure, The Shallows has everything a survival picture can offer, but nothing more than what meets the eye. It's a showcase where what you see is ultimately what you get.

The Verdict: In my opinion, I found that The Shallows was not hard to review, but difficult to assign a rating to. If you have high expectations as a veteran viewer then you'll be disappointed, but if you watch it solely for the purpose of entertainment, then it is a satisfying experience.

The Rating: 2.5 out of 4. 

If you favored Blake Lively as a beach blonde then what's your opinion about Paris Hilton?:

20 poems of insatiable lust. Topics range from women in stilettos, the temptations of adultery, infatuations with Persian beauties, Paris Hilton and so much more. Get your copy here: Shadow of your Lust.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Knock Knock (2015) - A Review

There are good home-invasion films, and there are bad ones, but Knock Knock (2015) is satisfyingly original.

Directed by horror veteran Eli Roth (Hostel, Hostel 2, The Green Inferno) with a screenplay co-written by him and two others, this erotic thriller arouses more than just your attention.

Keanu Reeves has the main role and gives the performance of a lifetime. Lagging close behind are Lorenzo Izzo (Roth's real-life wife) and Ana de Armas. The story follows Reeves answering the door on a stormy night to two beautiful strangers. Little does he know that these attractive faces hide psychotic traits. And throughout most of this feature he gets tortured by them.

Acting is simply awesome. The three major characters share a twisted chemistry. And the whole scenario looks and feels so real. Cinematography is top-notch with the house sets chosen beautifully to match the dreadful visual narrative. The pacing balances well with the running time.

However, there is are still flaws: The villains' backgrounds are left unexplored. They are evil but never reveal themselves or why they are tormenting the lead. The conclusion, though unpredictable, leaves a lot to question.

To end with, Knock Knock is a psychological shocker, that will make you hesitant to reply: "Who's there?"

The Rating: 3.5 out of 4.

If you favor erotica in any form of media, then Shadow of your Lust is bound to please.

Description: 20 poems of insatiable lust. Topics range from women in stilettos, the temptations of adultery, infatuations with Persian beauties, Paris Hilton and so much more. An excerpt:

To a kind-hearted man, she is love
But she is The Insatiable
To a below-minded man, she is lust
But she is The Insatiable

Another example:
Your brunette locks, I miss
The snow-white skin, the fulsome and rounded hips
Suffice to say this, I have the kiss
Of a Persian Beauty, on my lips

So, go ahead and dwell into Shadow of your Lust's contents of stimulation, because just like the relief you get from your fantasies, you won't be disappointed.

My 2nd Poetry E-Book!

Friends, I'm pleased to announce that Shadow of your Lust is officially out on Amazon Kindle for only $0.99!

Don't forget to check out the link posted under the cover image above. Most importantly, I'd like to thank all the readers of our blog for giving me the necessary motivation to finally self-publish my sophomore poetry collection!

Happy reading,
Nisar Masoom.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (2016) - A Review

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (2016) almost manages to come close to the original's spontaneity. The following review contains spoilers:

The Plot: A sequel to Neighbors (2014), it follows the same dim-witted couple, and this time around, they have to outwit a sisterhood that has moved next door. 

Analysis: Despite the start being a bit boring, Neighbors 2 becomes more fun when Chloe Grace Moretz's character, Shelby, and her group of friends, move into the house next door to our main couple's abode. They are again played convincingly by Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne.  

There's no shortage on acting talent, though we have seen Moretz in more challenging roles, she does make for  a convincing freshman. The themes of minorities, same-sex marriages and adolescent depression are made fun of, but not with offense, rather with a postmodernist outlook of humor. Although, the frequent usage of the word "sexist", could have been taken down a notch.

Compared to the last entry, Neighbors 2 isn't that much different in terms of cinematic style. That's because Neighbors was a more original venture which showed both the couple, and the frat brothers, engaging gradually and understanding each other. But in this part two, we have the plot of the sorority sisters becoming a secondary storyline altogether.  

The afore-mentioned factor is really annoying when the movie starts, but as the running time progresses, you realize that Neighbors 2 is one of those flicks that gets better as the plot moves along. And it was also a treat for me as I dislike comedies that are much longer than 90 minutes, but at 91 minutes, it made for an overall entertaining experience.

Of course, this picture does try to replay old jokes and dialogues just to showcase it as a sequel, and it's a bit too generic in some sequences. But with Byrne's Kelly Radner giving a feminist speech very much near the ending, seeing old friends unite, and then new family members emerge, the movie has not forgotten its prequel's roots at knowing how to finish off a comedy in proper fashion.

And not to mention when Teddy Sanders (Zac Effron) mentions that the girls have become what they hate, now if that's not deep enough for you, then watch another comedy, because after all the indecency, the hidden messages of acceptance in the narrative still come out as strong.

The Verdict: Neighbors 2 doesn't have its forebear's brilliance, but it's still worth watching if you liked the first part, and also because it's superior to most of the farces that Hollywood keeps churning out year by year.

The Rating: 3 out of 4.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Now You See Me 2 (2016) - A Review

Now You See Me 2 (2016) is one of those sequels that makes you wonder if Hollywood will ever stop churning out part twos. The following review contains spoilers:

The Plot: In this part, the Four Horsemen finally resurface to the public, only to get involuntarily recruited by a tech genius to pull off an impossible heist.

The Analysis: To start with, not only was the movie's plot dumb, but every sequence seems disconnected to the central storyline. We have a starting scene of a flashback which leads to one of our main character's past dilemma. This forwards to Jesse Eisenberg's J. Daniel Atlas seeking out the Eye himself.

With these two points of offset, the viewer isn't sure which story to follow, which was not the case in the prequel. The first part was better in terms of incorporating mystery foremost then concluding with a twist ending. But with this second attempt, writer Ed Solomon showcased that he couldn't convince audiences of the bizarre idea that he and Peter Chiarelli came up with.

The characters aren't that intriguing either. Although, majority of the thespians playing them have given Oscar-worthy, and even Oscar-nominated, performances before. Morgan Freeman suited portraying Thaddeus Bradley but at his age he could play such roles in his sleep.

Literally, there's no shortage of talent here: Eisenberg is perfect as he was in the last film as Atlas, Mark Ruffalo is wasted as Agent Dylan (don't get me wrong, his acting was spot on), Daniel Radcliffe seemed like he was supposed to be on another set, Woody Harrelson played a dual act with finesse but ultimately it's just another double role, and Michael Caine appears out of nowhere like he just missed being in big-budget blockbusters.

But we have two saving graces for this one: Dave Franco as Jack Wilder, and Lizzy Caplan as Lula May. Both these figures brought a renewed fire onto the screen. I think Caplan served as a welcome addition to the ensemble. As Luna, she provided relevant comic relief when it was needed, and most of her antics diverted the attention from the other Horsemen's cheesy dialogues.

The direction by John M. Chu constantly made the film feel like it was a dance movie, with all the UV lights and such. So, I wasn't surprised at all to find that Chu helmed my favorite dance flick: Step Up 2 (2008). He also served as the director of G.I. Joe Retaliation (2013). Therefore, this exhibition came as a mix-up of two genres, comedy-action, but it played out more like a dance movie.

However, the afore-mentioned factor of playing out like a dance movie is not a negative one. Pacing is one of the foremost positive points for this picture. Even at a running time of 129 minutes, you never get bored with the swiftness of the shots, and if you're more into glamorous thrillers, then you won't even notice when the closure arrives.

There's one sequence I hold in highest regard and that was the laboratory scene where the heroic crew had to steal a chip, and they do this by pasting it on a card, which they pass along to each other. That sequence was the best one of Now You See Me 2. And I commend Mr. Chu for showcasing his directorial skills at that mark when I thought this movie comprised mostly of unoriginality.

Still, you can't help but get turned off by the serendipity of events that led to the happy ending for our protagonists. When the closing trick was revealed it came to me as no shocking revelation. Furthermore, the secondary storyline of Agent Dylan's grudge against Bradley was actually superior to the major scenario. And if the writer had made this the main plotline then the comprehensive experience would've been much better.

The Verdict: Overall, I recommend this movie to viewers watching strictly for entertainment purposes, but to me it was just another run-of-the-mill summer flick. In the end, Now You See Me 2 is all about what's on the surface with nothing much of value underneath.

The Rating: 1.5 out of 4. 

If you favor thrillers of better worth, then check out Masoom Thrillers #2:

It contains seven short-stories incorporating genres of vampire fiction to traditional tales of suspense. 

Monday, August 29, 2016

Brooklyn (2015) - A Review

The Oscar-nominated Brooklyn (2015) is filled with emotional highs and narrative lows. Still, it manages to come across as a paramount entry in the romantic genre.

The Plot: Based on Colm Toblin's 2009 novel of the same name, it tells the story of a young Irish immigrant who finds love, when she travels to Brooklyn in the 1950s. However, things take a drastic course when her past catches up with her. 


The Good: The cinematography is sublime and nothing looks out of place whether it be the scenery of Ireland, or the developed America. Director John Crowley really knew when to use the shots, specifically close-ups of the main character Eilis. His talent is also showcased when he directs the intimate scenes between the primary couple.

The score is also pitch perfect. I thought the music really came in handy when there were no dialogues on the screen. Brooklyn is one of those rare romantic-dramas which has both picturesque mise-en-scene, and attractive thespians playing lovebirds.

The highlight of this flick is no doubt the acting. Saoirse Ronan leads the charge with her spectacular enactment of Eilis. So, it came as no surprise that she got nominated for Best Actress at the 88th Academy Awards. And she might've won if it hadn't been for Brie Larson with her incomparable performance in Room (2015). Ronan was undoubtedly the runner-up.

The supporting cast is also notable. Emory Cohen is lovable as the main male figure. Domnhall Gleeson and Julie Walters also provided memorable support. Emily Bett Rickards who plays Felicity on the TV series Arrow also had a secondary role which ironically suited her as she depicted an annoying gossip girl.

The second-best aspect of Brooklyn is the discourses between characters. I thought the humorous conversations going on where Eilis lived in Brooklyn were quite laughable. Also, the letter narration between Eilis and her sister was done extremely well in a literary sense. Not to mention the charming exchanges between the two leads where Cohen earned his chance in the spotlight with the portrayal of Eilis' love interest Tony Fiorello.

Furthermore, Brooklyn is not just some fancy tearjerker. It has a heart of its own and it lies within Eilis. She is the major focus throughout this spectacle. And I thought this was a needle in a cinematic haystack which showcased a woman so brave. It's all about the female individual's choices and this movie was more character-orientated than event-driven which also allowed to be a bit different from others in its category.

It all comes down to this question for Eilis: Should I return to Ireland or live my life here in the US? And not only is she asking herself this but the audience is equally indulged in her thoughts. And that is why screenwriter Nick Hornby earned the nod for Best Adapted Screenplay.

The Bad: Firstly, the picture was very predictable, even though most of its type are I just thought even the most tragic of incidents were forthcoming. In addition, the first hour was slow and uneventful yet the last 45-50 minutes were brilliantly filmed and written thus moving along at a swifter pace.
Thirdly, despite the venture being unique for representing a strong lady, there are similar films with this message. Therefore, the feature is not entirely original as in being one of a kind.

The Verdict: Brooklyn was the least-best contender for the 88th Best Picture. But after completing it, I reckon that it deserved to be selected, hands-down, for all three Awards. It might be foreseeable but the unparalleled acting by Ronan and Cohen, and the superbly-penned closure, make it a must-watch for dramatic enthusiasts.

The Rating: 3 out of 4. 

If you favor romantic movies then why not read poetry of the same genre? Check out Masoom Poetry:

It's a collection of 50 poems, that after reading, makes you want to fall in love again. Whether it be on the topic of heartbreak or a newly-found love, this poetry e-book is the epitome of love lost or found again.