John Wick Chapter 2- The movie works, but its matrix doesn’t

A mafia boss with a distinct European accent goes, “He’s committed. He’s focused….”. Who is this person , well endowed-  given the stock of buffed of men in silk suits decorating the peripheries of his tastefully lit cabin -singing litanies about? He’s responding to his second in command’s suggestion to eliminate the reason for their shift in location. The reason being a person. Not just another person, but the eponymous hero-John Wick. The bombastic prologue segues in a dark alley from where a sinewy silhouette walks towards. Enter, Keanu Reeves. We were expecting a hero to service the legend that was so elaborately woven around. What we instead get is the sight of a man trudging his way into the frame, like Dravid after third session at crease.

Let me first make one thing clear, I’m not as dismissive of Keanu Reeves like I was of Hank’s atrocious hairdo as Robert Langdon. He’s a fine looking guy. And like Hanks he doesn’t have a distinct persona that would let him have a fourth wall breaking conversation from the vintage of a larger than life role. I never complained about him in the Matrix franchise. That ecosystem warranted a neutral looking bland person and it got one. But the Die Hard, Commando, Taken template of films are essentially testosterone spiking trips, as avant garde as the posturing may seem. John Wick’s core is set in this space.  Just that there’s sincerity instead of swag, modesty instead of attitude.  It’s as tedious as it would’ve been, had Arjun played Raghavan in Vettaiyadu Vilaiyadu.

When Bruce Willis moused through the nooks and corners of Nakotomi Tower to single handedly bring the villain’s empire down , it was sheer delirium. An epidemic of wolf whistling ensued. And Mc Clane gladly acknowledged with a,”Yippee kiyay, motherfucker!”. And like that pop culture found an another parlance for posterity.

We’re constantly being reminded that this lethal person’s god’s handpicked population control technique, ahh…”the boogeyman” as the people around hype him to be. But not in one of the infinite stunt sequence do you feel this palpable danger these people were talking about, if anything he looks endangered. It’s that strange space we find ourselves in, were the one killing seems to be in danger more imminently than the ones getting killed. Vulnerability is a good thing- if it were an under dog account -it brings plausibility. But not when you’re fashioning a legend of sorts. You don’t want to shine on the fault lines.
All this critique isn’t to take anything from the set pieces, that are invigoratingly staged. They’re choreographed with a staggering vision; with an unctuous imagination. Like the stretch when two gunmen nonchalantly sprinkle bullets as they weave through a busy crowd, the claustrophobic combat in the train that ensues or the dexterous shootout in a dark tunnel   But all of that translates to such uninspired action on scene, that it feels like a school annual day gig, with Reeves going through the motions with a post coital face, keeping track beneath his breath, of every kick and punch delivered. He’s neither a skilled martial artist nor a luminous star to overlook the fact of not being one.

A man’s assaulted pup’s killed by a bunch of teenagers, one of who is a son of a Russian mafia lord. But little do they know that the pup ain’t just another pup. It’s the last gift from his late wife. And the man’s no ordinary person. He’s John Wick, one of the deadliest assassins on the face of earth. He’s part of a brotherhood that lets him shop guns like shoes.He goes on to single-handedly reduces the mob empire to a debri of corpses and brick. End of first film.
Rinse and repeat-Sequel!

It does make for one hell of a read and it should’ve stayed that way. That way it could’ve teased our imagination about who could play John Wick.Some movies are better left in the pages till the right guy comes through. A star, who can elevate the material beyond the pages. That’s the thing about star wattage, it makes a hero out of a mercenary when played right. And the lack of it, makes the mercenary,well…..Keanu Reeves.

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Timeless onscreen romances

Love should probably be the most inexplicable emotion ever fathomed by human mind. Imagine something which could be the vast universe and the speck rogue comet.Love is exactly that. It’s meaning could be exhaustive, accommodating the entire gamut of emotions and at the same time compact enough to be conveyed with a blushing cheek.

It could be complex enough to remain undecipherable over a life time; 

Simple enough to be mastered before puberty. 

It could elude with the deceit of a downpour evading a famine hit land;

While endlessly rain into overflowing tanks. 

A ruthless miser to some;

An indiscreet philanthropist to some other.

An intoxicant to some;

An inspiration to some other

A irrevocable injury on some; 

An antidote to some other. 

A permanent scar on some;

A badge of honor on some other.

A mirror to one’s soul to some;

The wall before the mirror to some other.


I’m this sort of a person who talks in movie metaphors over dinner table conversation. Also, most of my learning and epiphanies have happened at the behest of moving images.This piece is an effort at enlisting some manifestations of love; in all it’s glory through some celluloid cult classics that’ve intrigued and inspired me to write this.


Ennu Ninte Moideen
 is based on a real life story that happened in a rampantly casteist Kerala. It eulogises the trials and tribulations of Moideen(a muslim) to win the hands of his beloved love interest,Kanchamala(a hindu) for over a span of close to three decades;that only saw their love accrue endlessly . Fate mercilessly conspired in their lives- as the sharp end of the stabbing father’s hand. As the apathy of casteist parents who dug their heels deeply in their respective stances. Finally as the the whirlpool, that dragged him to his death. Kanchanamala till date leads a celibate life as Moideen‘s widowed wife.


Vicky Cristina Barcelona
presents love in it’s enigmatic opulence. It tells the story of two friends, Vicky and Cristina,who fall in love with the same man; who’s life is already spiced up by the tantrums of a reclusive wife. Narrated with characteristic Woody Allen nonchalance, this movie makes a passive endorsement to bohemian sensibilities of a man’s ability to love two women at the same time with fervent reciprocation. It uncannily portrays how soulmates compliment and complete each other.

What starts as a promiscuous pursuit; turns into a endearing masterpiece that manages to make one actually root for the threesome.


Punnagai Mannan
 celebrates the redemption aspect of romance.It reiterates the fact that every end ushers a new beginning sooner or later. It narrates the story of a guilt ridden guy, who happens to accidentally survive a suicidal leap with his lover that consumes her life. With the passage of time,another woman walks in to his life from the same place he tried to end it once. She inspires him to love again.He resists and then eventually reciprocates back.After all,light at the end of the tunnel needn’t be of a fast approaching train’s everytime.The movie ends on a tragic note, with the couple getting killed in a freak accident in the same suicidal cliff that the story began from. A testimony to irony, that  fro the jaws of death and killed him at the threshold of another beginning.


Titanic
is a tragedy; which talks about the conspiracy of fate in one’s life. It brings Jack, a lowlife on board of one of the most ambitious vessels built, the infallibly perceived Titanic. Over the course of journey he happens to fall in love with the aristocratic Rose who’s ruing over her engagement. Their lopsided romance grows from strength to strength with every passing mile sailed, for fate to play spoilsport in the form of an iceberg that breaks the vessel and their relationship. Every time the movie plays, our hearts sink along with Jack and the plank.


The Holiday
is about two lovelorn women, Iris and Amanda who swap homes to hold their lives from crumbling apart.The movie traces the journey to their self discovery in the process of finding love in their new homes. It talks about the impact of travel and nature on widening a person’s perspective. The movie’s soul is surmised in this wonderful monologue by a teary-eyed Iris reminiscing about her failed relation-

“I understand feeling as small and as insignificant as humanly possible. And how it can actually ache in places you didn’t know you had inside you. And it doesn’t matter how many new haircuts you get, or gyms you join, or how many glasses of chardonnay you drink with your girlfriends… you still go to bed every night going over every detail and wonder what you did wrong or how you could have misunderstood. And how in the hell for that brief moment you could think that you were that happy. And sometimes you can even convince yourself that he’ll see the light and show up at your door. And after all that, however long all that may be, you’ll go somewhere new. And you’ll meet people who make you feel worthwhile again. And little pieces of your soul will finally come back. And all that fuzzy stuff, those years of your life that you wasted, that will eventually begin to fade.”

Batman vs Superman- Yawn of Justice

Imagine a person connected by a bluetooth device to his pet cat. Keeping it from falling off a tree’s branch or helping it cross the road starts to become the purpose of his life with every passing mission to keep the cat alive. Well imagine the person to be wrapped in a blue spandex, itchy around the pelvis and a “who –farted- now” look on the face, that’s Superman and the pet cat, Lois Lane his lady love with an IQ of a dung beetle.
In the recent Batman vs Superman-Dawn of Justice, there’s more feminism per square footage than in all of Meryl Streep movies put together with Mother Teresa montages. For submission to Lois Lane’s whims and fancies on priority basis, seem so pertinent to Superman. Even if this misplaced priority meant a dozen immigrant heads at stake, a possibility of making it to the “No Fly Zone” and a few hundred skyscrapers about to be reduced to rubble by a nuking abomination in those precious minutes of romantic unison, he squeezes every time with her.
The warring heroes bond over motherhood, that too with a precious proper noun crisis. So did the guys, who sat on a production cost of $ 250 Million have a good enough reason to bury the two year old hatchet built on ideological differences and more importantly to go against the titular theme of the film? Yes,”Martha”!
Sure any reason, notwithstanding the magnitude of consequence has to melt at the moot of maternity. So the so called epic gladiatorial battle between God and Man, the Son of Krypton and the Bat of Gotham is a red herring that is relegated to gooey-bromance between two sons of different Marthas in a matter of minutes.
So “Martha. Martha” it is.

And if you thought, that was the last of the influence the fairer sex had on the narrative, you’re mistaken, for there is Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman who is the biggest alpha entity of the story. She gets to belt some of the best lines and kick some kryptonian ass when the big boys are violated by an ill behaved monster on loose. In fact, ironically the scene that shows a JPEG image revealing her hidden identity gets the most evocative score of the movie with the sequences involving the sundry heroes(Batman/Superman) happening in natural sound sans exaggeration. Imagine a paragraph about something with etcetera in the end, double the font size as its body. Well, this is how its movie equivalent would look.

If the scope of the movie was already shunted by the inundating spirit of misplaced feminism, the one noted hamming of Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor takes care of the unintentional humor. Neither his “nurtured-on-substance-abuse” look nor his asphyxiated articulation of every syllable, let us take him seriously as a worthy antagonist to pit two of the most revered superheroes against each other. With absolute suspension, his might probably pass off as a teenager’s novice imitation of Heath ledger. And his hyper-ventilation is fondly flattered as being “psychotic”, which is countered with an unimaginative wisecrack by him on syllable count.

The movie reeks from liberal infusion of apocalyptic rhetoric mouthed mostly by Luthor, abstract , which absolutely make no meaning in isolation or together with another disjointed rhetoric like this one-“God is tribal. He picks sides...” or my personal favourite that Alfred dishes so perceptively to the space above the audience’s head called “went-above” that goes-“That’s how it starts. The fever, the rage, the feeling of powerlessness that turns good men… cruel.

Problem with these ramblings on God and exodus is the fact that they don’t organically lead up to a proceeding befitting of their gravitas. For how seriously are we supposed to take men indulging in cross-fitness with well waxed chests while trying to forge a weapon of mass destruction or the ones who bag-pack on a trek to a picturesque peak to only get a dad epiphany to fix moral disputes.
The last time I  heard so many geometrical jargons I had a textbook in hand and a puberty to attain. So when Lex Luthor for yet another time got started about how the line was the shortest distance to either sides of a triangle to an uninspired Lois lane, I could only think of  what was for lunch.

As the end credits started to roll, it dawned upon me that maybe Batman was after all  addressing us-the audience when he asked,”Will you bleed?“, for Superman had already fled the scene, leaving us to bleed to boredom.

Conjuring 2-fieldnotes from a movie hall

12.30 Pm

I had ensconced in my favorite space in my favorite place in Chennai-J1, Main screen, Satyam Cinemas on a lazy Saturday afternoon to see the what James Wan had done with the Warrens and their case files in his latest offering-Conjuring 2. I love to go for some movies alone to not let petty conversations water down the cerebral impact I hope to derive out of the viewing. Some movies interact. Some intrigue. And very few disturb.
Wan’s creations largely fall in this category. Take for instance the gut wrenching Saw series or the Insidious movies that seemed like a love child between Exorcist and Nightmare on Elm Street, they have a hand made quality to them despite being based out of an alternate space ruled by vanquished souls and twisted minds. His attempts are the most candid we get to a ghoul cracking experience within the syntax of mainstream movie making. So they are best, when watched in isolation.

Seated comfortably in the wall corner by the aisle break, I was hoping to be shaken out of my skin, yet again. The crowd was a motley of well dressed men and women, if the clothing and the small talk occupying the earspace was anything to go by. They were talking in well constructed sentences, polite and cordial sounding about the good reviews the movie had garnered and how pricey the popcorn had become. What else was I expecting from a crowd in an uptown theatre than good behavior I thought to myself.

Then lights went off as the screen came alive. Darkness befell as the title began to roll.

The crowd that seemed like the creme de la creme of the city that had gathered for an opera concert while the lights were on, suddenly started making noises that alternated from resembling mating calls of chimpanzees to a foul’s wail with the butcher’s knife about to swing as the movie started playing.

So much for the sophistication that went off with the lights.

It was not like the movie was a drab affair that didn’t engage; quite the contrary infact. The screenplay moved chronologically as it is based on true happenings-with shrieking sounds at first leading to disobedient furniture and appliances, to aberrations and finally the appearance of the spirit -culminating to the point the affected family was left at the mercy of the Warrens’s paranormal sleuthing prowess.

Then I started wondering as to what could possibly be the reason, the dude and dudettes who rinse in lattes-behave like neanderthals at the first sight of light-in a horror movie, time and again.
Probably is it from the fact that a dark room with no accountability is seen as a callout to the lurking primal self from within?( I can’t deny taking to the temptation myself, but definitely not in a theatre playing a good film.)

Or the bravado and the heckling are infact red-herrings to cover up being genuinely freaked out. Hence the funny noises let out in the place of a yell as an attempt to keep up the machismo.

I’ll have to wait and watch.

1.30 Pm

Somewhere near the halfway mark of the movie I got my answer; as the first yell came out of the boisterous crowd leading to applause. From this point, the crowd seemed vested in the proceedings. The fracas had made way for a state of genuine engagement. The theatre had begun to muse on the movie. A state very few movies manage to pull off in this part of the world, especially the ones that belong to this genre.
The theatre was functioning like the ersatz electrocardiogram of the movie-pounding along rhythmically from one development to another-screaming empathetically at times and applauding at a breakthrough; likes its own glimmer of hope;hopefully.

3.00 Pm

The movie ended with a standing ovation from the entire theatre. Ed and Lorraine Warren had officially become a part of popular parlance here, so much so that a 12 year old would understand a meme made on them.
To derive a standing ovation from a heckling crowd that had come to have a party at the cost of the movie is no mean feat; the cinematic equivalent of taming of a wild horse . Wan did it the last time around. He seems to have hit the bullseye with his sophomore attempt too.

Read somewhere that he’s hinted at the third instalment involving a werewolf theme during an interview. Bring it on, already!