Neighbors (2014)

Neighbors or Bad Neighbors is a 2014 American comedy film, directed by Nicholas Stoller and written by Andrew Cohen and Brendan O’Brien. The film stars Seth Rogen and Zac Efron, with Rose Byrne, Dave Franco, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse. The film was released in the United States on May 9, 2014 to positive reviews and grossed over $266 million against a budget of $18 million.

The premise is pretty simple; couple in their 30s with a new born baby daughter are upset when a fraternity famous for their wild partying move in to the house next door. Initially everything goes nice as the couple, Mac & Kelly Radner, go over and offer the members some weed and ask them to politely keep the noise level down. Fraternity leaders Teddy & VP Pete promise to do so and ask the couple to always come to them first if the noise is too loud instead of calling the cops. The Radners are invited over for a wild night of partying with booze, grass and magic mushrooms and the couple are happy. But the next night Mac is unable to get Teddy on the phone during another loud party and the baby wakes up crying. Mac calls the cops but the cop goes away after Teddy shows him a video of Mac partying with the fraternity. The next day the fraternity members continuously haze the couple and make life miserable for them. They go to the dean (Lisa Kudrow) to complain and learn that the school has a three strikes policy; burning down their old house was Delta Psi’s first strike.

Mac & Kelly hatch a plan with the help of their divorced friends Jimmy & Paula; they go to the next party pretending to patch things up but while Mac distracts Teddy, Kelly manipulates Pete & Teddy’s girlfriend Brooke into kissing and then have sex, which Mac sees. The two best friends fight which causes a bbq grill to roll onto the street and hit a passing professor. This causes the second strike against the fraternity and they are put on probation, meaning Teddy’s plans of having an end of college term blow out party is shut down. Mac, Kelly & Jimmy also bribe a freshman to secretly record the fraternity’s hazing ritual, which they can show to the Dean and close the fraternity down. But Teddy shows kindness to the freshman when he acts out causing the kid to tell Teddy about the whole recording. Teddy begins playing violent pranks on the couple, stealing their car’s airbags and placing them in hiding around the house. This causes a little rift between the couple but they patch things up.

Mac & Jimmy forge a letter from the dean allowing them to have parties again, and Teddy begins planning their end-of-the-year bash. They also hand out flyers announcing the party to the local neighbour gangs and hobos. Once the party is in full swing the cops are called by Teddy sees a flyer and guesses what is going on. He stops the party just as Watkins shows up. Jimmy throws himself from the balcony to distract Teddy, allowing Mac and Kelly to sneak into Teddy’s bedroom and restart the party using the breaker box. Teddy catches them and fights Mac, while Kelly lights one of the fireworks and shoots it at Watkins’s patrol car to provoke him into action. With the lights back on, all the partiers returns and the cop calls for backup and Teddy is arrested but he talks Pete, a good student, into leaving. Teddy takes the blame for the party and the dean shuts down the fraternity and the members leaves the house with Mac & Kelly adjusting to their old life and the quiet neighbourhood.

Four months later Mac & Teddy meet at a mall where Teddy is working as a shirtless greeter for Abercombie & Fitch. The two greet each other warmly, having put aside their fight and Teddy tells Mac that he is attending night classes to complete his degree. Mac takes off his shirt and jokingly acts as a greeter with Teddy.

Funny and gross humour – baby putting a condom in it’s mouth, Kelly’s sore breasts and milking it as she was drinking the night before etc etc. Lots of yelling, falling about and bad rap & hip hop music. 6.5 outta 10!

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Godzilla (2014)

Having seen the 1998 version – which I wasn’t so happy with – I wasn’t expecting much of this new and most recent tackle at Godzilla. The 2014 film is directed by Gareth Edwards and tars Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Juliette Binoche, Sally Hawkins, David Strathairn, and Bryan Cranston. Richard T Jones, Jared Keeso (19.2), Ty Olsson & Gary Chalk have minor roles.

In this reboot the existence of Godzilla and other large creatures have been known since 1954 but have been kept away from the public. In a mine in the Phillippines a colossal skeleton is found in 1999 and two pods are discovered near it; one lying dormant and the other has been hatched. Whatever was in the hatched pod, has crawled it’s way into the ocean and made it’s way to a Nuclear Power Plant in Janjira, Japan and causes a massive radiation breech causing an emergency shutdown. For 15 years the giant winged creature, a MUTO, eats the radioactivity and grows in size until it matures and breaks out. Meanwhile, at a Nevada nuclear waste facility, a second, larger and wingless MUTO, emerges and devastates Las Vegas. The scientists conclude that the second MUTO is female, the two were communicating and will meet to breed. Now, I know what you are thinking but shucks they did not show any giant creature sex – darn it!

Another larger creature, Godzilla an ancient alpha predator, was awakened accidentally in 1954 and initially the US military used nuclear weapons to kill it; it was in vein. As predicted by the scientists who lead Monarch, a project setup to study Godzilla, the large creature will hunt and kill the two MUTO as it in in it’s nature. Much devastation occurs as the MUTO’s destroy parts of Japan, Hawaii and California as San Francisco is where the two MUTO’s meet to form a nest and breed (ofcourse, eventually all extra-ordinary creatures and aliens will converge in the USA) and military forces are deployed with nuclear warheads to stop these creatures. Godzilla battles both creatures and is losing when one of the soldiers destroys the nest, causing the female to rush towards it. This gives Godzilla the edge and it kills the male and rests. The female kills a few soldiers and is about to kill the lead male character when Godzilla grans it and rips it’s head off after spewing radioactive energy inside of it. He then collapses, seemingly dead. The next day, as people rummage through the rubble to find loved ones and get medical aid to the injured, Godzilla suddenly awakens and returns to the ocean, as survivors cheer. He didn’t even stay for a photo op, what a hero!

Now for the human characters: the hero’s mom was killed in the reactor in Japan and his father kept on searching for the truth about the nuclear explosion leading father and son to sneak back into Janjira. They are caught and taken to the test sight where the male creature was kept and as it broke free, the dad died in the melee. The son, a military solider and bomb expert (the coincidences just keep on rolling) joins the military back (he was on leave) and heads back to Hawaii and then San Francisco and is in the team that carried the nuclear devices. He, ofcourse, is the one who burns the nest causing the female MUTO to rush back to it and giving Godzilla the gap he needs to kill the male MUTO. He is also the one at the with the nuclear device on the boat and about to be female MUTO’s dinner when Godzilla attacks again. Son soldier is reunited with his nurse wide and son in the end! Not much to know about the characters other than that!

I found the first half mostly tedious and nothing memorable. We are all hereto watch the giant creatures battle it out. The second half of the film is much better and the special effects are awesome. But that’s all there is to this film. 7 outta 10!

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RIP Richard Attenborough

English actor, film director, producer and entrepreneur Richard Attenborough has died at the age of 90. Attenborough was one of England’s leading actors and was also a director and producer. He’s probably best known for bringing Jurassic Park to life. He also starred as Santa Claus in the remake of Miracle On 34th Street. His 70-year career also included The Great Escape with Steve McQueen as well as directing the film Gandhi which won 8 Oscars. Attenborough’s son told the BBC his father died Sunday at lunchtime — he’d been living in a nursing home with his wife for the past few years.

He was the older brother of Sir David Attenborough, a naturalist and broadcaster, and John Attenborough, who was an executive at Alfa Romeo. During the Second World War, Attenborough served in the Royal Air Force. After initial pilot training he was seconded to the newly formed RAF Film Unit at Pinewood Studios, under the command of Flight Lieutenant John Boulting. Attenborough worked prolifically in British films such as Private’s Progress (1956) and I’m All Right Jack (1959). In 1963, he appeared in the ensemble cast of The Great Escape as RAF Squadron Leader Roger Bartlett. During the 1960s, he played character roles in films such as Séance on a Wet Afternoon (1964) and Guns at Batasi (1964), for which he won the BAFTA Award for Best Actor. In 1965 he played Lew Moran opposite James Stewart in The Flight of the Phoenix and in 1967 and 1968, he won back-to-back Golden Globe Awards in the category of Best Supporting Actor, the first time for The Sand Pebbles, again co-starring Steve McQueen, and the second time for Doctor Dolittle starring Rex Harrison.

He took no acting roles following his appearance in Otto Preminger’s version of The Human Factor (1979) until his appearance as the eccentric developer John Hammond in Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park (1993) and the film’s sequel, The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997). He starred in the remake of Miracle on 34th Street (1994) as Kris Kringle. In the late 1950s, Attenborough formed a production company, Beaver Films, with Bryan Forbes and began to build a profile as a producer on projects including The League of Gentlemen (1959), The Angry Silence (1960) and Whistle Down the Wind (1961), appearing in the cast of the first two films. He also directed Cry Freedom (1987) & Chaplin (1992) among others. Attenborough had been married to the English actress Sheila Sim since 1945.

Richard Samuel Attenborough, Baron Attenborough, CBE ( 29 August 1923 – 24 August 2014)

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The Amazing Spider-Man 2

After the success of the reboot in 2012 a sequel was surely in the works. So earlier this year the sequel, simply titled The Amazing Spider-Man 2, was released directed by Marc Webb and released by Columbia Pictures. Once again Andrew Garfield reprises his role as Peter Parker / Spider-Man and Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Campbell Scott, Embeth Davidtz, Colm Feore, Paul Giamatti, and Sally Field also star. The film was made on a budget of $200 million and made over $700 million at the box office.

So before we catch up with Petey we see a flashback to the night that his dad Richard Parker and mom Mary leave young Peter with his uncle Ben and aunt May and then leave in a private jet. Wile Richard is uploading data to a remote server, an assassin attacks them and Mary is knocked out in the tussle. The plane crashes as the pilot had been killed, presumably killing everyone on board. Peter, having just saved Oscorp employee Max Dillon from a truck, and apprehends Aleksei Sytsevich, who attempted to steal a truck containing plutonium vials, graduates from high school and breaks up with Gwen as he is unable to get the image of her father, police captain George Stacy, reminding him to leave Gwen out of his affairs as Spider-Man. Gwen gets upset with him and storms off. Meanwhile Harry Osborn returns to New York just as his father Norman is dying and takes over Oscorp, laying down the law on the board a trying to wrest control of the company from the Osborn family and promoting his father’s secretary as his second in command. Harry has the same disease as his father and will not live long himself. Peter goes to see Harry and they reconnect.

Thinking they have become “best friends”, Max idolizes Spider-Man. While tending to maintenance in an OsCorp laboratory, he gets electrocuted and falls into a tank of genetically modified electric eels. As a result he mutates into a living electricity generator. As Peter tries to be friends with Gwen, she tells him that she has an interview to get a scholarship for Oxford and is looking forward to moving to England. As Peter tries to digest this information Max wanders into Times Square and causes a blackout as he draws in a whole lotta power from the city. Peter saves a few people from being crushes by cars and tries to calm Max down but the later feels that Spider-Man has betrayed his “friendship” and is shot by a cop when he makes an aggressive move. Spidey is able to stop him and Max is taken to the Ravencroft Institute after he has been shackled. Harry meanwhile has found that Richard & Norman’s work on the spiders could be the cure to his illness and asks Peter to get Spider-Man to give him some of his blood as he knows that Spider-Man must have gotten his powers from the spiders in the lab at Oscorp. Harry thinks Peter must know how to contact the masked super hero, having taken Spidey’s photos for the paper. Peter reluctantly agrees although he does come to Harry as Spider-Man, he still refuses; Harry begins to hate Spider-Man.

The board of members uses Max’s accident as an excuse and frame Harry for it and has him removed as CEO. The secretary informs Harry that some of the venom from the spiders was stored away in the building before the spiders were destroyed and Harry sneaks his way into Ravencroft and has Max, who calls himself Electro (yeah very original) freed. He works with Max to get him back inside the OsCorp building and, there, finds a suit of armor made by Norman, and venom from genetically altered spiders. The venom accelerates his illness and transforms him into a goblin-like creature, but its built-in emergency protocol restores his health. By now Peter has found a secret message left by his dad and finds a lab hidden in a deserted section of the subway and finds out that Richard had to leave because he refused to cooperate with Norman’s biogenetic weaponization plans. Peter then goes to see Gwen before she can leave for England and professes his love for her and says that he will join her in England and fight crime there. However this is when Electro attacks the city and with Gwen’s help Peter is able to overload Max’s body, destroying him. Harry comes to confront Peter and seeing Gwen with him, deduces that Peter is Spider-Man. They fight at the top of the clock tower with Gwen caught by Harry; in the tussle Gwen falls down to her death after Spidey overpowers Harry.

A distraught Peter attends Gwen’s funeral with aunt May and spends several months mourning her death. In those months without Spider-Man, NYC has seen rampant crime overtake the city with Harry having healed plots to breaks Sytsevich out of prison and in turn the villain, using a giant mechanical robotic suit and calling him the Rhino attacks NYC. His spirit renewed by watching a video of Gwen’s speech at graduation, Peter dons on the suit and goes to battle the Rhino, after thanking a small boy who stepped up to face the villain as the city cheers his return.

Nothing new in terms of story or characterization (which makes me wonder why the reboot) but I found the movie fun to watch. Garfield is better here and funny too than in the first movie but watching Jamie Foxx is painful as he attempts a human rendition of Ugly Duckling (watch the cartoon and you will understand what I mean) and his performance is painful. Nothing really stands out and in some of the fight scenes with Electro, the CGI makes it look like I’m watching something from Cartoon Network! I found only Garfield’s & Stone’s performances to be good. I’ll give it an 8 outta 10!

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Roshan’s Eleven : Robin Williams Movies

In honour of Robin Williams I am currently rewatching a bunch of his movies. It is highly unlikely that this list will change and so here is my list of fav 11 roles of the late Robin Williams.

  • Mrs. Doubtfire
  • Popeye
  • Aladdin
  • Patch Adams
  • Jack
  • Good Morning Vietnam
  • Jumanji
  • Good Will Hunting
  • Bicentennial Man
  • Insomnia
  • Dead Poets Society

The list is in no particular order although Mrs. Doubtfire is my personal favourite.

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The Other Woman

From director Nick Cassavetes comes The Other Woman a 2014 American romantic comedy film by Melissa Stack. The film stars Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann, Kate Upton, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Nicki Minaj, Taylor Kinney and Don Johnson. The movie is about 3 women who a man has been cheating on joining forces to teach him a lesson and get revenge upon.

Carly a successful lawyer in a big NYC firm has been going out with Mark for 8 weeks and things are seemingly going well. However on the day that he is supposed to be spending having dinner with her & her dad, Mark has to cancel saying that his housekeeper just called him saying that there is a burst pipe and that his basement is flooded. Upset with the last minute cancellation Carly grumbles to her father Frank, who advices her to go surprise him. Dressed in a tight plumber’s outfit she goes to his home (apparently for the first time) in Connecticut she is surprised to meet his wife Kate! Even though Carly doesn’t say much Kate realizes that Mark is cheating on her and finds out where Carly works and goes to her office and get the truth. Although they have troubles, with Kate having a funny version of a breakdown, the two eventually bond and spend a day together.

They also find out that he is also having an affair with the younger & much hotter Amber and run into her at a beach. Now the three of them bond after talking for a while at Kate’s brother Phil’s house at the beach and plot to get their revenge on Mark by doing things such as spiking his smoothies with estrogen and giving him breasts, as well as putting hair removal cream in his shampoo. By investigating his schedule and work Carly finds out that Mark has been embezzling lot of money from various clients and using Kate’s name as the CEO of a fake company to deposit the money in. However things get sidetracked when Kate finds herself falling for him again at an investor’s meeting but sees him talking on the phone with another woman and changes her mind. They track him to a trip to the Bahamas where they see him with another woman! Kate as the owner of the companies Mark defrauded, which would mean that she’d go to prison if the fraud is discovered. This, and the possibility of facing prison in Mark’s place, urges Kate to take actions with help from Carly’s legal expertise. After they get back the 3 women contact Mark’s senior parter and has all the money returned back.

Mark is confronted by the 3 of them in Carl’s office and given divorce papers and is also confronted by his partner. He can avoid jail time since the money has been returned but he is now bankrupt and out of a job! Kate who had contributed to some good ideas for the company is offered a job by Mark’s former partner while Mark gets a punch in the face by Carly’s dad. As the movie ends we find out that later on Kate becomes successful earning a lot of profit for the company and investors while Carly married Phil and is expecting while Amber goes out with Carly’s dad.

On a budget of 40 million the movie made $194 million and is considered a success financially although it got a lot of negative reviews. I found it ok and funny in a lot of places, especially Leslie Mann who is hilarious when she undergoes her breakdown and in the first half of the film. And ofcourse any excuse to see Kate Upton running on the beach in a bikini – yowza! Some of the jokes are funny and its an ok film. 7 outta 10!

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RIP Robin Williams

Comedic actor and stand up comedian Robin Williams was found dead today (11th August in the US)  of an apparent suicide. He was 63 years old. Celebrated in Hollywood for his zany comic persona and more subtle dramatic performances, Williams was found dead at his home in Tiburon, Calif., just north of San Francisco, according to the Marin County Sheriff’s Office on Monday. The apparent cause of death was suicide by asphyxiation, although an investigation is continuing. Emergency personnel found Mr. Williams inside the home he shared with his wife, Susan Schneider, after a 911 call reported a man unconscious and not breathing. The sheriff’s office said Mr. Williams was last seen alive at 10 p.m. on Sunday.

His film career included such acclaimed films as Good Morning, Vietnam (1987), Dead Poets Society (1989), Awakenings (1990), The Fisher King (1991), and Good Will Hunting (1997), as well as financial successes such as Popeye (1980), Hook (1991), Aladdin (1992), Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), Jumanji (1995), The Birdcage (1996), Night at the Museum (2006), and Happy Feet (2006). He also appeared in the video “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin. Nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor three times, Williams went on to receive the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Good Will Hunting (1997). “This might be the one time I’m speechless,” he said upon accepting the award. He also received two Emmy Awards, four Golden Globes, two Screen Actors Guild Awards and five Grammy Awards.

Despite being famous for his zany sense of humour and making people laugh he was often troubled by depression and masked a personal struggle with alcohol and drug addiction. He’s been married 3 times and has 3 children from his first two marriages. We will never know another like him.

Robin McLaurin Williams (July 21, 1951 – August 11, 2014)

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Captain America : The Winter Soldier

Captain America : The Winter Soldier is a 2014 American science fiction / action / superhero blockbuster directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, with a screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. It stars Chris Evans as Captain America, with Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smulders, Frank Grillo, Emily VanCamp, Hayley Atwell, Robert Redford, and Samuel L. Jackson. The movie serves as a sequel to the events of Captain America : The First Avenger & the first Avengers movie. In this film we are introduced to both the Winter Soldier (who was only seen as his normal avatar of Bucky Barnes, a close friend and fellow soldier to Steve Rogers and the debut of the Falcon.

Steve Rogers leads a team that includes Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow about two years since the events in New York, on a mission to rescue hostages onboard a SHIELD vessel in the ocean that was taken by Algerian terrorist Georges Batroc (retired UFC champion Georges St-Pierre) and his mercenaries. As Rogers fights the Algerian he finds out that Natasha has an additional mission, that of retracting vital data from the ship’s computers. After securing the vessel and the hostages they return to headquarters where Rogers confronts Fury and is briefed about Project Insight: three Helicarriers linked to spy satellites, designed to preemptively eliminate threats. Unable to decrypt Romanoff’s recovered data, Fury becomes suspicious about Insight and asks senior S.H.I.E.L.D. official Alexander Pierce to delay the project. Fury is ambushed while in his car by a team of assailants led by a mysterious masked figure, who we will come to know as The Winter Soldier, and barely manages to escape. He ends up in Rogers apartment where he passes on the data on a USB drive to Rogers before he is shot in the back by the masked man.

Rogers is unable to get to the assailant and at the hospital Fury is declared dead much to the dismay of Romanoff & Rogers. Agent Maria Hill recovers the body as Rogers is called back to the headquarters to meet Pierce. As Fury told him moments before he died to trust no one, and seeing a team of SHIELD soldiers arriving to escort him, Rogers hides the USB drive in a vending machine at the hospital. When Rogers witholds the information from Pierce, he is branded a fugitive and is ambushed by several agents who he manages to defeat and escapes. Using the data from the drive, Rogers & Romanoff discover an underground bunker in New Jersey where an old SHIELD lab was built and housing a supercomputer with the preserved consciousness of Arnim Zola. Zola reveals that Hydra is still alive, hidden within the ranks of SHIELD and responsible for creating chaos on a global scale with the agenda for the world to give up freedom in favour of security. The bunker is hit by a SHIELD missile  and the duo narrowly escape and make their way to the home of Sam Wilson, a former USAF man who Rogers had befriended for recuperating. With the help of Sam’s “Falcon” wingpack they approach SHIELD agent Jasper Sitwell and force him to reveal Hydra’s plans to divulge that Zola developed a data-mining algorithm that can identify individuals who might become future threats to Hydra’s plans.

Once the hellicarriers are launched they will target these individuals and use satellite guided guns to eliminate them from above. Just then the Winter Soldier and his men attack the trio and kill Sitwell. During a fight Rogers unmasks the mysterious figure and recognizes as Bucky Barnes, his best friend and fellow soldier who was captured during WW3 and experimented upon by Hydra and is more powerful and hasn’t aged a bit. The trio are captured but enroute to the SHIELD headquarters they are extracted by Maria who brings them to a hideout where they find a still alive Fury! Fury gives Rogers, Natasha and a newly recruited Sam controller chips which need to be placed in the 3 hellicarriers to foil Hydra’s plans. At the headquarters Rogers reveals Hydra’s existence and their plans to the entire SHIELD staff via a broadcast while Romanoff, disguised as one of the Council members, disarms Pierce. Fury arrives and forces Pierce to unlock S.H.I.E.L.D’s database so that Romanoff can leak classified information, exposing Hydra’s actions. After a struggle Fury shoots Pierce dead while Rogers & Sam storm the hellicarriers to replace the chips. At the 3rd carrier the Winter Soldier destroys Sam’s wingpack so Rogers arrives to a showdown with his old friend.

Rogers fends him off and replaces the final chip, allowing Hill to take control and have the vessels destroy each other. Rogers refuses to fight the Winter Soldier in an attempt to reach his friend, but as the ship collides with the Triskelion, Rogers is thrown out into the Potomac River. Barnes, having recovered some memory of his former life, rescues Rogers and leaves him on the banks and leaves. With SHIELD in disarray & Fury still “dead” Natasha speaks before a Senate committee while Fury heads for Europe, Sam joins Rogers to find Barnes. Post credits we see scientists examining an energy specter while two mutant twins are revealed inside glass cages; one with super speed and the other with kinetic abilities while the Winter Soldier goes to see a Bucky Barnes exhibit at a museum.

Exhilerating, entertaining and a fantastic action packed thrill a minute ride, this is an extremely worthy successor to the original movie and probably one of the better Marvel movies to date. On a budget of $150 million the movie has grossed $715 million before home media sales. I give it a 8.5 outta 10!

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RoboCop (2014)

Although not a huge fan of the RoboCop franchise, I still like the original movie enough to consider rebooting it an unnecessary deed. Based on what I just saw, I stick by that decision. The new & rebooted RoboCop is a 2014 science fiction action film directed by José Padilha. The film stars Joel Kinnaman in the title role, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, and Samuel L. Jackson. Supporting roles are provided by Jay Baruchel, Abbie Cornish, Michael K Williams, KC Collins Jackie Earl Haley, Aimee Garcia & Jennife Ehle.

So much like the original plot, Alex Murphy is a Detroit cop who is critically injured when a car bomb goes off at his residence, burning most of his body and leaving him invalid. OmniCorp is a leading company that manufacture robots for the American Military that has successfully deployed their models in various situations overseas in keeping the peace. However their entry into civilian law enforcement has been blocked by Senator Dreyfus, whose Dreyfus Act prevents non-humans to act as police officers. CEO Raymond Sellers has his marketing team join forces with leading scientist Dr. Dennett Norton in finding a suitable candidate, i.e a permanent injured cop to be fitted with their latest product that will combine man & machine. After much persuasion Murphy’s wife Clara consents to letting Alex be that candidate.

Alex is outfitted with a cybernetic body and software and wakes up once the procedure is done. He reacts violently to his situation and escapes the complex in China but is deactivated and brought back. Slowly he comes to terms with the fact that only his head, brain, lungs, heart, throat and right hand have survived and that the rest is robotic and agrees to be their man. Mattox, a military technician who is hired by OmniCorp, is skeptical of a man being to best robots in the field and in their first test Murphy responds more slowly than a drone due to his natural hesitation when making judgments in the field. In order to improve his performance, Norton tampers with his brain, putting the software fully in control in the field but making Murphy believe the decisions are his own. With these changes, Murphy defeats Mattox and his drones in a live test.

At his first pubic appearance Murphy becomes emotionally unstable as he downloads the Detroit PD’s database and sees CCTV footage of his own accident and has to be deactivated again. Pressed by Sellers, Norton has Alex’s dopamine levels dropped altering his brain chemistry to the point where Alex does not show emotion. He is revealed to the public where he ignores his wife & son and immediately apprehends a criminal that he scanned in the crowd. Over the next few weeks he drastically lowers the crime rate in Detroit as fear of RoboCop hinders the plans of criminals & thugs and the ones that dare are apprehended. The public’s opinion of the experiment soars and it looks like the Dreyfus Act could be repealed. Sellers has his team ensure that Alex is denied access to his wife & son but when Clara confronts him, it begins to affect his brain chemistry and he starts to investigate his own case and goes to his house. As his scans & investigation shows that his son was traumatized by the accident, his dopamine levels return to normal and he blasts into the hideout of the mob man Vallon, who had ordered the bomb on him and kills them in a firefight. Back at the PD he confronts two corrupt cops who were protecting Vallon and feed him info and shots one while making the other confess. However as he confronts the police chief, his program is shut down by Mattox.

Sellars spins this latest news to his advantage stating that drone will be incorruptible and hence make better law officers. An effort to repeal the Dreyfus Act is initiated, with overwhelming support. Meanwhile, Clara goes to the press and lashes out at OmniCorp, demanding to know why she and her child are being kept away from her husband. He and his team decide that Alex must not be revived and that his body is to be dismantled as he would likely go after corrupt officials, making things tough for OmniCorp. Clara is told that Alex died but Norton revives him and removes the control chip and tells him what happened. Feeling betrayed Alex heads to OmniCorp headquarters and battles the drones and with some help from his former partner, who kills Mattox when the latter is about to get the better of Alex using a software code written in, is able to get to Sellers and shoots him dead but is injured in the process as well. He is reunited with Clara and his son and his much damaged body is rebuilt back at the lab by Norton and his team. The President vetoes the repeal of the Dreyfus Act based on the testimony of Norton, who confesses everything OmniCorp has done while news reports show Murphy secretly returning to work.

Great special effects, nice showing of futuristic gadgets and gizmos, good action sequences and fun stuff blowing apart. The movie does nothing to really improve upon the franchise story or charm and is devoid of much emotion even if it is a healthy update to the franchise. Samuel L Jackson’s role as a much biased news/talk show host ends with his typical boisterous rantings. Kinnaman as an action star/ Not fully convinced and he really is one dimensional. All his roles are pretty much the same character in slightly different shades. There’s a kitchen scene in this film that is so similar to the latest season of The Killing (in which he does excel though)! I’ll give it a 7 outta 10!

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Finally I got a chance to watch one of the most anticipated movies of the year (for me anyways) and I wasn’t exactly disappointed. Transcendence is a 2014 science fiction film directed by cinematographer Wally Pfister in his directorial debut, with Christopher Nolan as executive producer and written by Jack Paglen. The film stars Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Kate Mara, Cillian Murphy, Paul Bettany, and Morgan Freeman.

What is the movie about? I’ll spare you the scientific & technological slangs and stuff that even I, a staunch science fiction buff, find hard to grasp but let’s just stick to the framework of the story. Dr. Will Caster, a brilliant scientist who is motivated by curiosity about the working of the universe, is the head of a team, which includes his wife Evelyn, that is creating a fully sentient computer. He hopes that such a computer can create a hypothetical moment in time when artificial intelligence, human biological enhancement, or brain-computer interfaces will have progressed to the point of a greater-than-human intelligence, radically changing civilization, and perhaps human nature aka a technological singularity or “transcendence”. However a group of revolutionaries, RIFT, who are scared of evolution aided by technology shoot him with a radiation affected bullet and also poison almost all the staff working on the AI projects.

A dying Will has but weeks to live and in desperation Evelyn comes up with a plan to upload his consciousness into the quantum computer and gets Will’s best friend & fellow researcher Max Peters to help her. Although he has his doubts about the wisdom of this decision, Max helps and it works. Will’s likeness survives his body’s death and requests that he will be connected to the Internet so as to grow in capability and knowledge. Max panics, insisting that the computer intelligence is not Will. Evelyn forcibly asks Max to get out from the building and connects the computer intelligence to the Internet via satellite. Max is kidnapped by RIFT and questioned by their leader, a former admirer of Caster, Bree and eventually over time he joins them. Evelyn meanwhile leaves for a small town in the desert named Brightwood and together they build a technological utopia in the middle of the place. Over the next two years Will spearheads revolutionary advancements in nanotechnology, medicine, energy & biology – even being able to heal blindness and fatal wounds. However Evelyn begins to feel fear when as a sideffect of the process Will is able to remotely connect to and control all the people who have the nano-particles in them.

The government has been keeping a close eye on things and plan an attack, aided by the fact that the terrorists are also trying to infiltrate Brightwood. RIFT has created a virus that once uploaded into Will’s network will kill Will’s source code but will also erase him and as a catastrophic side effect will also wipe out all technology. Evelyn who was contacted by government researcher and friend Joseph Tagger who is with FBI agent Donald Buchanan is told to run from the place but she goes back in. Later on seeing more treated humans acting like assimilated being, she joins Bree, Max, Tagger, Evelyn, and has the virus injected into her blood as she is forced to choose between uploading the virus or risking assimilation into Will’s Transcendence, which holds the promise of ending pollution, disease, and human mortality. On returning back to the Brightwood she is shocked to find Will in a newly created organic body identical to his old one. The FBI and the activists of R.I.F.T. attack the base with mortars, fatally wounding Evelyn.

In order to save her, Will, knowing that the virus is in her, chooses to upload her mind as she did his and is instantly affected by the virus. All the technological devices and even buildings that have the nano-particles in them dissolve into the air as Brightwood is destroyed but the humans infected with the nano-particles retain their previous state. As Will is dying, he explains to Evelyn that he did what he did for her: saving the planet was her wish, to learn the secrets of the universe was his. Then, the virus kills both Will and Evelyn, and a global technology collapse and blackout ensues. 3 years pass by and with the world still in a technological blackout, Max visits the former home of the Casters and finds sunflowers blooming under a Faraday cage that Will has setup in their backyard. He also realizes that a sample of Will’s nano-particles have survived under the cage with possibly Will’s & Evelyn’s consciousness surviving in that, which will give the world another chance at transcendence – perhaps when it is ready.

Ok, so that does very techy and geeky but I like the idea a lot although the execution wasn’t as good as needed to pull of the movie successfully. Made on a $100 million budget the film flopped just about making the money back. I can understand why as it is a hard film to connect to and the characters aren’t ones that you can relate to either. I still will give the movie a 7.5 outta 10!

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Under The Skin (2013)

Loosely based on Michel Faber’s 2000 novel of the same name, Under The Skin is a 2013 British-American science fiction movie starring Scarlett Johanssen and directed by Jonathan Glazer who also co-wrote the script along with Walter Campbell. It’s an artsy movie that drags and stretches and has very little dialogue and few actors – a lot of the scenes were shot with a hidden camera as Johanssen talked to people on the streets and another character is played by the owner of the land some of the scenes were shot in. Championship motorcycle road racer Jeremy McWilliams was cast as the motorcyclist alien, as the film required a “world-class” motorcyclist who could ride through the Scottish Highlands at very high speeds in bad weather conditions.

The movie starts with some odd 60s scifi looking imagery and then we see a biker riding at night on the streets of Scotland. He stops near a van and finds the body of a young woman on the side of the road and he picks it up and puts it in the van. A naked woman, in a featureless white void, removed the clothes of the dead girl and puts them on. The woman (Johanssen) later drives the van on the streets looking for men to prey on once she lures them in for sex, which she promises them in her remote residence. She selects men on the pretext of asking for directions and chooses the ones who don’t have family around or who won’t be easily missed. Once she gets them to her residence, they walk in a black, featureless void and the men sink into a black liquid abyss with their skin separated from their flesh. I don’t know how to explain what the liquid looks like but imagine a thick liquid kinda like black jello! The woman and the motorcyclists are both aliens, with human skin fitted onto them to make them look like human beings, and the bodies of the victims are processed for food which is sent to their home planet!

There is another scene where the woman attempts to pick up a swimmer at a beach but he is distracted by the cries of help from a couple who are drowning. He tries to save them but the woman, ignoring the  cries of the couple’s infant on the beach, hits his head with a rock and drags him away. Later the motorcyclist comes and disposes of the swimmer’s belongings leaving the baby there. However something happens to the woman as she lures a lonely disfigured man – she begins to feel empathy and lets him free even after she gets him to her residence. The disfigured man is however found by the motorcycle alien who dumps him into a car that he steals and drives off with him. The woman goes to a hotel and attempts to eat human foo;  cake but finds that she cannot swallow it. Later she  meets a man on a bus who takes her in from the rain, cooks her food and gives her a room to sleep in. Later he tries to have sex with her but she stops abruptly and examines her vagina in the light of a table lamp (I am led to believe that she discovers that she cannot have sex with a human). She then makes her way to a forest and sleeps in a shelter there but wakes up to a logger, who she had met earlier, attempting to rape her.

As she tries to get away, the logger rips her clothes and finds that the skin has torn off too – to reveal an almost featureless black skinned alien beneath the human skin. The woman rips offs the rest of her fake skin but the frightened logger, runs away and returns with some petrol which he uses to douse her body and lights it on fire. The alien dies in the flames as her ashes coil in the sky, freed from her former life of killing humans as it becomes apparent that the time spent in human skin, pretending to be human and interacting with them has made her feel like a human as well.

Weird, dull, boring and dragging. It’s a thoughtful film, but it is so devoid of excitement or action. Despite the fact that I liked the concept and the imagery, the movie is dull. I almost fell asleep a few times. I’m going to give it a grudging 6 outta 10!

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I really don’t know how to review this crazy little weird film. Snowpiercer is a 2013 South Korean science fiction action film based on the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige by Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand and Jean-Marc Rochette. The film is directed by Bong Joon-ho and written by Bong and Kelly Masterson. The film marks Bong’s English-language debut; approximately 80% of the film was shot in English. The film stars Chris Evans, Song Kang-ho, Go Ah-sung with supporting roles by Jamie Bell, Ewen Bremner, John Hurt, Tilda Swinton, Octavia Spencer, Alison Pill and Ed Harris.

A disasterous ice age occurs in 2014 after an experiment to counteract global warming goes awry. Almost all life is destroyed on earth which is now a snow & ice planet and a few survivors remain, inhabitants of the Snowpiercer, a massive train, powered by a perpetual-motion engine, that travels on a globe-spanning track created by eccentric multi-millionaire inventor Wilford. A class system exists on the train with the rich passengers who bought tickets inhabiting the front of the train and those who managed to get aboard during boarding inhabiting the tail end compartments. It is now 2031 and in the 18 years things have become bad for the tailenders who live on protein blocks that guards provide at regular intervals. A rebellion is staged led by Curtis and masterminded by oldtimer Gilliam and they beat up the guards (who it turns out had long ago run of bullets for their guns) and force their way through several compartments and reach the prison section. There they release prisoner Namgoong Minsu, the man who built the doors dividing each car, and his daughter Yona. They offer him Kronol, a drug he is addicted to, as payment for unlocking the remaining doors.

They run into a battalion of guards armed with weapons and there is a huge fight in which Curtis has to sacrifice saving Edgar, his second in command, to capture Minister Mason. She bargains her life for leading them through the wealthier sections to the engine but in the school car, the teacher and a henchman draw machine guns, slaughtering many of Curtis’ followers, and executing his mentor Gilliam; Curtis kills Mason for revenge. Franco, a henchman of Mason’s slaughter through most of Curtis’s followers before he appears to have been killed and finally only Curtis, Yona & Namgoong are left and they make their way through the wealthy class partying and drinking it up in luxury until they reach the entrance to the engine. Namgoong wants to blow open the side of the train, and escape into the outside; he claims that he has noticed the snow receding and melting a bit meaning they could survive outside as the temperature must be dropping. Curtis tells him that he must confront Wilford as when the poor inhabitants first boarded the train 18 years ago they didn’t have access to food or water which soon drove them to cannibalism. Before the introduction of the protein blocks, Curtis had kidnapped an infant Edgar to eat him, and killed his mother, before Gilliam cut his own arm off and offered it in Edgar’s place.

Namgoong still means to blow up the side of the train when the door to the engine section opens and is shot and wounded by Wilford’s assistant Claude, who forces Curtis inside. Wilford welcomes Curtis with steak and wine and explains that the revolution was orchestrated between himself and Gilliam as a means of population control, necessary to maintaining balance aboard the train for supplies. However they didn’t expect Curtis to be this successful and Wilford’s own losses too great, so he executed Gilliam as punishment. Wilford’s men are execute roughly 74% of the inhabitants in the tail section and then the aging inventor says that he wants Curtis to take over as the train’s overseer. Nona comes in and knocks out Claude as Curtis punches Wilford and lifts the train’s floor to find that Wilford is using small children from the tail end, snatched away from their families, to replace the failing parts and he sacrifices his arm to help one of the boys, Timmy, climb out. Yona recovers the explosive from Claude and ignites it, before retreating into the engine with Namgoong. The damaged engine door fails to close, and Namgoong, who was fighting off the wealthy & their guards, and Curtis sacrifice themselves to shield Yona and Timmy from the resulting explosive fire.

As it explodes, the denotation causes an avalanche which knocks off the train and destroys most of the compartments killing everyone in them. Yona and Timmy seem to be the only ones who survived and they step out into the snow, huddled in large jackets taken from the wealthy inhabitants and spot a polar bear in the distance, meaning that life is survivable on the surface.

Weird film with Tilda Swinton & Alison Pill’s characters providing the bulk of the weird & humourous scenes as well as a sing along session that Pill’s character only known as Teacher does with her young students. I found myself going “WTF” and “what the hell is going on” in several scenes as well as a handful of “huhs” here and there. It’s eccentric and memorable and certainly very different from what Hollywood shows us. I’ll still only give it a 7.5 outta 10!

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RIP James Garner

Award-winning American film and television actor James Garner who starred in several television series & movies spanning a career of more than six decades has died at the age of 86. Garner was best known for his primetime television roles as a wisecracking frontier gambler on Maverick and as an ex-con turned private eye on The Rockford Files. Garner starred in more than 50 films including The Great Escape (1963), Paddy Chayefsky’s The Americanization of Emily (1964), Grand Prix (1966), Blake Edwards’ Victor Victoria (1982), Murphy’s Romance (1985) for which he received an Academy Award nomination, and The Notebook (2004).

A purple heart awardee who was wounded twice in Korea, Garner entered showbusiness in the 1950s after serving in the Korean war and first rose to fame on the TV western Maverick, a sardonic alternative to the more serious frontier shows then popular on American primetime. Garner left the ABC show in 1960 in a contract dispute with producers but brought his Maverick-like alter ego to a series of films, including The Thrill of It All, Move Over Darling, The Great Escape and Support Your Local Sheriff! His next big hit was on the small screen in the 1970s, when he starred as the canny private detective Jim Rockford, a wrongly accused ex-convict starting life over in a beachfront trailer home in The Rockford Files. The show ran on NBC from 1974 until Garner abruptly quit the series in 1980. He reprised Rockford for several TV movies in the late 1990s. The role earned Garner an Emmy award in 1977. He also received an Oscar nomination for his work opposite Sally Field in the 1985 feature comedy Murphy’s Romance. His last few hit movies included Space Cowboys, The Notebook & he was on the final season of 8 Simple Rules.

He was married and had two children. According to police, an ambulance was dispatched to Garner’s Brentwood, Los Angeles home at around 20:00 on July 19, 2014. Garner was confirmed dead when paramedics arrived at his home. The cause of death was not immediately reported but initial law enforcement officers on the scene declared “natural causes” as the cause of death.

James Scott Bumgarner; April 7, 1928 – July 19, 2014

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47 Ronin

47 Ronin is a 2013 Japanese-American film and  fictional account of the real life 47 Ronin or masterless Samurai who’s tales of adventure and revenge stem from 18th century Japan. The film was directed by Carl Rinsch and stars Keanu Reeves and Hiroyuki Sanada. The story is simple, set against a beautiful backdrop of Japanese landscapes and intricate costumes and exuberant & intricate sword fighting scenes.

The story is about Kai a half-Japanese, half-English boy who is found fainted in the woods by a party led by benevolent Lord Asano Naganori of the province of Ako. The boy had been running from a changeling and lose consciousness even as he tries to fend off grasping hands. Asano takes the boy in and he is raised in the household but his half-breed status makes him the topic of jokes and ridicule among the residents of Ako. Only Mika, Asano’s daughter, sees him for who he is and the two fall in love which is kept in secret. Before a visit from Shogun Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, Lord Asano is visited by the Shogun’s master of ceremonies, Lord Kira, who becomes attracted to Mika. A celebration is held during which Kira’s champion – a huge Samurai – has to face off against a champion from Ako. Oishi, principal counselor to Lord Asano, picks Yasuno to be Ako’s champion based on the fact that the latter had killed a dragon they were hunting but in truth it was Kai who killed the beast. Just before the ceremonial duel, Yasuno is found incapacitated – the work of a powerful he sorceress Mizuki who is working for Kira – and in order to save Ako’s reputation, Kai dons the amour and fights the large Samurai. In the duel his headgear comes off and he is sentenced for punishment by the Shogun.

Later that night, Mizuki bewitches Asano into believing Kira is raping Mika, causing Asano to attack an unarmed Kira in delirium. The punishment for trying to kill an officiate is death but the Shogun allows Asano to die with honour in a ritual suicide. The domain of Ako is handed over to Lord Kira, and the Shogun brands Oishi and his men Ronin (masterless Samurai). Kira demands Mika’s hand in marriage on the spot, but the Shogun grants her one year to mourn the death of her father, and forbids the Ronin of Ako from seeking vengeance. To ensure there is no interference, Kira imprisons Oishi in an outdoor pit to break his spirit. Almost a year later, Oishi is released to go back to his family and once recovered he gets his son Chikara to get him horses and goes to find Kai, who was sold into slavery in the fighting pits of the Dutch colony of Dejima. They escape from there and go to the forests where Kai was found as a boy and armed with their new weapons, the Ronin plan to attack Kira on his pilgrimage to a shrine as he seeks blessings for his wedding to Mika. Several Ronin are killed in an ambush but Kira’s soldiers false believe that the lot of them have died and return back.

The 47 remaining Ronin take help of a band of traveling performers loyal to the memory of Lord Asano, Kai and Oishi infiltrate Kira and Mika’s wedding ceremony, giving Mika an opportunity to flee as the Ronin scale the walls and attack Kira’s men. Kai and Mika attempt to escape together, but are attacked by Mizuki, who takes the form of a dragon. Kai draws on the mystical powers of the Tengu he possesses, and ends her life. Oishi emerges with Kira’s severed head, and Kira’s men surrender. Heading back to the Shogun’s palace, the Ronin are are sentenced to death as they explicitly violated the Shogun’s command to not seek revenge. However, the Shogun finds that they followed the principles of Bushido in their actions, restoring their honor as samurai. Hence instead of being execute like criminals, the 47 men are allowed to perform the ritual suicide and are to be given the honour of being buried next to their master. Before they can start, the Shogun grants a pardon to Chikara as he didn’t want Oishi’s bloodline to die out. The remaining former Ronin continue with the ritual.

Storywise it is pretty wonderful and adventurous and brings you back to an era of old glory and courage. Ofcourse the mystical & mythical elements are all there and we have a lot to look at with the beautifully shot movie. But it lacks clarity & you are never fully involved in the plot nor are the characters fully fleshed out. That makes the film forgettable and I can see why it failed at the box office. I will give it a 6.5 outta 10 just for the spectacular shots!

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Loosely based & inspired by the biblical myth of Noah Ark’s, Noah is a 2014 movie directed by Darren Aronofsky, written by Aronofsky and Ari Handel, and starring Russell Crowe as the portagonist. Also starring are Jennifer Connelly, Ray Winstone, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman and Anthony Hopkins.

So we all know most of the story of the mythological Noah aka Gilgamesh so let’s just have a run down of this movie shall we? So after humanity – Adam & Eve are like being of light here – are banished from Eden, Adam & Eve have 3 sons. After Cain kills Able, his descendants led by Tubal-Cain are rulers of the earth while Noah’s family are descendants of the 3rd son, Seth. As a boy Noah sees his father being killed before he (the father) can give his son the snake skin roll (the same snake skin roll that was discarded by the snake that tempted Eve to want the forbidden apple (fruit). Tubal-Cain takes the snake skin and leaves. Later as a grown man with his own family -wife Namaah, sons Shem, Ham & baby Japeth – Noah has visions of the earth being flooded with water and the destruction of all life on earth. He takes his family to see his grandfather Methuselah.

Noah’s family finds a wounded young girl, Ila, the lone survivor of her tribe who was attacked by Tubal-Cain’s men and take her in as one of their own. They are chased by the men but Noah get help from the Watchers – angels who fell to earth when they tried to interfere / help humanity against the Creator’s wishes – who look like giant rock monsters and evade the men. Methuselah gives Noah a seed from the garden of Eden and when Noah plants it in a desert like barren area, a lush rain forest springs forth from it. Noah and his family, with help from the rock monsters, build an ark using the wood from the trees surrounding them. As the years pass by the ark reached completion and birds and animals flock to the ark and using some incense & herbs that Nammeh setsup, the family puts all the animals to hibernate. As Ila & Shem are in love, Noah goes to a nearby village to find wives for Ham & Japeth but is shocked by the scenes of barbarism and cannibalism that is rampant there and heads back home. This greatly upsets Ham (who it seems is really horny) and despite being ordered to stay back by Noah, he leaves and helps rescue a young girl named Na’el who he wants to take as his wife. The mysterious Methuselah cures Ila of her infertility (by briefly touching her – I dunno) and she goes giddy with happiness and presumably takes Shem in the sexual way!

Tragedy strikes when Na’el is caught in a trap just as Tubal-Cain’s men are on a rampage towards the ark and Noah, who was in search of his son, forces Ham to leave her behind and she is trampled to death by the rushing hoardes of warriors. An upset Ham retreats to the back of the ark while Noah has the openings closed as the warriors attack. As the mob attack begins, the Watchers sacrifice themselves to protect the Ark from the mob, and themselves ascend to Heaven. Tubal-Cain is the only one who survives as he breaks into the ark unseen by everyone except Ham, who doesn’t alert Noah. Noah tells them a story about how the Creator created everything and the Adam & Eve story but now that the creator has deemed humanity to die and all the animals shall live in peace once humanity is dead. He says that Shem & Ila will bury Noah & Nammeh, Ham will bury Shem & Ila and the youngest Japeth will bury Ham and will die the last human on earth. Ham provides food for the injured Tubal-Cain, who uses Ham’s anger towards Noah to get him to kill his father. The days pass and the rains stop and Ila discovers she is pregnant but Noah puts a damper on things and says that if the baby is a girl, he will put her to death as the Creator meant for them to be the last humans on earth.

Months pass by and as her pregnancy progresses Illa & Shem try to escape on a raft but Noah sets it on fire, stopping them from leaving. Ila gives birth to twin girls. Meanwhile, Tubal-Cain convinces Ham to help kill Noah, who is therefore attacked by Tubal-Cain, Ham, and Shem. As they fight, the Ark hits a mountain, and Ham kills Tubal-Cain. Noah seizes Ila’s twins, but spares them upon perceiving innocence and as he later says love. As they leave the ark, Noah leaves and drinks himself to a stupor, being found naked and drunk by his sons. Having reconciled, at the behest of Ila, with all but Ham (who departs alone), Noah blesses the family as the beginning of a new human race, and witness an immense rainbow.

Did I like this movie? Hmmm I liked the production and I liked the part where Noah tells them about the story of creation – which will confuses creationists and other Christians because they show evolution – and all that. It’s more like a fantasy tale (well most religious stories are) and seems a bit odd. I dunno what his intention was to tell this tale cause I can’t see what the point was. Noah seems like a bitter religious fundamentalist who seems to have severe survivor guilt towards the end but rock monsters? C’mon! Ah, I’ll give it a 7 outta 10! I wasn’t bored.

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RIP Zohra Segal

The grand ole dame of Indian movie & television has left us. Indian actress & choreographer Zohra Segal died yesterday at the age of 102 in a New Delhi hospital on July 10, 2014 due to cardiac arrest. Sehgal started her career as a dancer in Uday Shankar’s troupe, performing in countries like the United States and Japan. She went onto appear in numerous Bollywood films as a character actress with a career-span of over 60 years. Considered the doyenne of Indian theatre, she acted with Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA) and Prithviraj Kapoor’s Prithvi Theatre for 14 years. She was awarded the Padma Shri in 1998, Kalidas Samman in 2001, and in 2004, the Sangeet Natak Akademi. India’s National Academy for Music, Dance and Drama presented her with its highest award, the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship for lifetime achievement. She received the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second-highest civilian honor, in 2010. She has also acted in English-speaking films such as Bend It Like Beckham.

She was born as Sahibzadi Zohra Begum Mumtaz-ullah Khan on 27 April 1912, the 3rd of 7 children, into a traditional Muslim family in Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh, India, to Mumtazullah Khan and Natiqua Begum, belonging to a Rohilla Pathan family of Rampur, Uttar Pradesh, India. She lost her mother while still young and studied at Queen Mary College in Lahore. Upon graduating, her maternal uncle, Sahebzada Saeeduzzafar Khan, who was based in Edinburgh, arranged for her to apprentice under a British actor. She stayed in Dresden for the next three years studying modern dance. On 8 August 1935, she joined Uday Sankar’s dance troupe and danced across Japan, Egypt, Europe and the US, as a leading lady, along with French dancer, Simkie. she became a teacher at the Uday Shankar India Cultural Centre at Almora. It was here that she met her future husband Kameshwar Sehgal, a young scientist, painter and dancer from Indore, eight years her junior, belonging to the Radha Soami sect. There was initial opposition from her parents, but they eventually gave their approval for the union.

After her husband’s death in 1959, Zohra first moved to Delhi and became director of the newly founded Natya Academy. She then moved London on a drama scholarship in 1962. Her first role for British television was in a BBC adaptation of a Kipling story, The Rescue of Pluffles, in 1964. She also anchored 26 episodes of BBC TV series, Padosi (Neighbours; 1976–77). She then went on to star in Merchant Ivory film The Courtesan of Bombay & went on to appear in The Raj Quartet, The Jewel in the Crown, Tandoori Nights, My Beautiful Laundrette. In the 90s she returned to India and has acted in several Bollywood and English language films with Indian backgrounds. Throughout the majority of her life she has been either agnostic or atheist.

Zohra Sehgal (27 April 1912 – 10 July 2014)

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