Shades Of Words


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Marvel Studio’s Dr. Strange

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If you are expecting an objective review then I recommend walking away as I am fan of Benedict Cumberbatch and am often more forgiving of his creative endeavors than others. Let me begin with acknowledging the obvious – Cumberbatch yet again embodies a hyper-intelligent, narcissistic, apathetic character. He is predictably brilliant in the movie and displays a surprising sense of comic timing. I don’t doubt his talent but I will really like to see him do something else.
Dr. Strange is an odd movie to review, immensely enjoyable but definitely distinctive from its other Marvel counterpart. The arrogant, flamboyant, neurosurgeon Dr. Stephen Strange lives the life of millionaires and have-it-alls callously stepping over the lives, dreams and hopes of others. An automobile accident leaves him severely damaged and for once in his life he finds he doesn’t pull the strings. In a desperate attempt to regain the strength of his hands, he follows the tales of mystic healing to the base of the Himalayas to Kamar-Taj in Nepal. After the usual dramedy of he-is-stupid-but-still-the-chosen-one, Strange is taken under the tutelage of the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton, who makes this silly character look effortlessly real), and very quickly learns to bend the universe to his will. In fact it appears he had probably studied longer to be a neurosurgeon than to be an astral plane traveler. Strange graduates just in time to fight the evil sorcerer Kaecillius (Mads Mikkelsen, whose considerable talents seem wasted here), who is trying to absorb the planet into the Dark Dimension where Dormammu rules. The planet is the price he is willing to pay for a life of eternity.
In realms of fantasy, Dr. Strange pushes boundaries like no other Marvel before. Imagine Inception on steroids. Strange’s first out of body experience is exactly that for the audience too. Psychedelic montages take us through freakishly bizarre journey through the universe. The time-reversal sequences alone are worth the price of the ticket.
The weak thread of the movie is story. Super hero movies need to latch on to strong moral themes to create empathy for cartoonish, ridiculously clad characters. Dr. Strange is more about one man’s personal journey. The good versus evil storyline is not clearly defined, nor the universe of the mystical magical world. The CGI effects often carry the movie away from the core story. Even the ever brooding Chiwetel Ejiofor cannot provide any gravitas to the flailing storyline.
And the movie makers get it. While immensely entertaining, this movie doesn’t imbibe the sincerity that makes superheroes films somber. It’s almost if everyone realizes how foolish this is and decides to simply have fun with it. For instance, the Cloak of Levitation while obviously a very powerful weapon for Strange to command is used for comical effects. Or the grand climax where the super-villain is defeated by getting stuck in a timeless loop. By the time, Dr. Strange stands up to Dormammu the 5th time, I was rolling in my seat. Movie climaxes are supposed to be awe-inspiring, not nerdy and silly.
It’s sad that the most interested I was in the movie was when the credits finished rolling and Chris Hemsworth’s Thor appears requesting Dr. Strange’s assistance to look for Loki. Now I want to see that movie!
At the end of it this is what I took away from the movie – Use bluetooth while driving.


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Pride & Prejudice

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The 2005 version of Pride & Prejudice surprised me greatly. Having been an ardent fan of the faithful BBC adaptation starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth, I strongly believed that no other interpretations were required. I avoided watching Keria Knightley’s Miss Bennet for years until the movie showed up on my Netflix recommendation. I am so glad I gave in.
As an adaptation Debora Moggach’s screenplay remains true to the novel. Key turning points and interactions are verbatim from the book. In other places, extensions and improvisation on text adds immense value to the original plot. For instance, Lizzy’s reaction to Charlotte’s engagement is more frank rather than the contained polite one in the book. The first exhchange of dialogs between Lizzy and Mr. Darcy more pointed and sharp – as Austen had intended if not so much written in words.
More than the screenplay, I believe Joe wright brings out the darkness that lies repressed in the pages of the novel. The desperation of the Bennet’s middle class is apparent in the sweaty flutterings of the mother running around an unkempt middle class establishment. The girls are all pretty but they are definitely lacking in urban sophistication – the gap between them and the Bingleys/Darcys painfully apparent. And has Mr. Bingley not always appeared a little dimwitted – so easily persuaded by his friend and sister to abandon his love. In the movie there is no pretentsion – he is decidedly a simple, bumbling good looking idiot. There is some caricturization of all main characters – as if the layer of Victorian proprietary protecting them has been stripped away. The country dance halls are loud and noisy, the village streets muddy and the dresses of the Bennet not always starched clean.
The English countryside is used to its complete picturesque advantages with the camera often sweeping across meadows and hills. The weather is used to accentuate the mood of the storyline.I love the fact that Darcy’s first proposal is in the rain instead inside the Collins’s cottage. The cloudy foggy day adds to the tormented exchange which again does the job of bringing out the undercurrents of passion only implicit in the novels. Lady Catherine De Bourg’s interview with Elizabeth in the middle of the night is truly outrageous and slightly improbable but it adds beautifully to the urgency leading to the ending.
As in the book and in the 1995 adaptation, Elizabeth of this version also goes through a change of heart when her eyes first fall on the grand facade of the Pemberly estate. Future financial security weighs big on the Bennet girls.  It’s also interesting to note that a similar observation is made when Jane confesses her feelings for Mr. Bingley. “Handsome and conveniently rich”, Elizabeth quips to her sister.
In matter of perfmonaces Keira Knightley shines. It is truly her movie – there isn’t much for anyone else to do. Macfayden’s Darcy is more wooden than repressed. I really did not see him as a ‘hero’. All the other big names of British cinema do well to bring the story together.
I highly recommend watching this version. The tone of the movie might bother you a bit but this is a beautiful retelling of a classic with all the focus on the subtext.


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2014 – The Year of the TV

2014, was my Year of the TV. A new baby at home and a DVR service courtesy DirecTV meant that I could relax my exhausted mind with endless TV shows and movies. New parents often tell me that when you have a child, you never get to watch a movie again. In our case, watching TV was the only mode of relaxation that involved the least effort and the maximum returns when the baby was asleep.

The whole year is a blur and it’s hard to remember what all drivel I sat through, but a few things stand out – because there were really good or really bad. As 2014 comes to a close, over the next 1 month I am going to reviews on everything I liked, loved or hated.