Shazam! – Movie Review

Despite an overblown action-packed finale, the movie is ultimately fun and uplifting.

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As we live in the golden era of superhero movies, it’s the fantasy of every fan to develop superpowers and fight evil. In Shazam, a teenager Billy Batson gets to live this fantasy, when he is granted magical powers by a bearded wizard. All Billy needs to do is say the magic word “Shazam!”, and he is transformed into an adult (Zachary Levi) in a superhero suit. Billy might have the powers of Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury, but like any 14-year old, he uses his newfound identity and superpowers for buying beer (before promptly spitting it out), paying a visit to a strip club, and making viral videos on YouTube. Zachary displays the same exuberant enthusiasm which Grant Gustin had embraced in early seasons of The Flash.

Some of the jokes feel childish, which is understandable considering it’s a kids’ film, starring kids. Billy’s roommate at the foster house, Freddy is a superhero nerd who helps his fledgling ungeeky superhero friend discover his powers, by running a series of hilarious superhero tests. Billy’s camaraderie with his other foster siblings is also wonderfully Stranger Things-ish.

While the movie smartly deals with exposition by tying it with the villain’s backstory early in the movie, Mark Strong’s Dr. Sivana seems to be straight out of a Mummy movie, as he conjures up bland, dastardly CGI depictions of the seven deadly sins. It’s understandable given director Sandberg’s history with making horror movies (Annabelle: Creation), but I would have preferred more imaginative versions of the deadly sins.

The movie’s laden with Easter Eggs, as was evident even in first look posters. Shazam may not be the refreshingly original superhero movie which the trailer had promised, but the movie is undeniably fun, and its core message of finding one’s family is conveyed sweetly. The movie overstays its welcome with an overblown action-packed finale, but Shazam is ultimately uplifting and another step in the right direction for the DCEU.

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Game of Thrones Season 7 – Top 10 Moments

As supplementary reading to the Season 7 recap, we count down some of the best moments from the season. Despite the action feeling slightly rushed, Season 7 is packed with some truly awesome sequences.

10. The Song of Ice and Fire

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A popular interpretation of the book’s titular Song of Ice and Fire is that it refers to Jon (Ice) and Daenerys (Fire). While their long-awaited meeting wasn’t as good as that of Tyrion-Dany, it was still a memorable scene, as Dany finally meets her match, in more ways than one.

9. Jaime leaves Cersei

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This was a long time coming. When Cersei and Jaime find themselves strongly disagreeing about the impending White Walker threat, Jaime finally decides to leave Cersei and ride North.

8. Arya vs Brienne

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As Arya and Brienne put on quite a show at Winterfell, with Arya matching Brienne blow for blow, I looked on as proudly as a father would, if he hadn’t approved of his daughter’s assassin summer camp in the first place.

7. The Pack Survives

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One of the season’s biggest criticisms was how forced the tension between Sansa and Arya was at Winterfell. However, all was forgiven when it culminated in Littlefinger’s execution at the hands of the Stark siblings – Professor X, Mystique and Jean GreySansa.

6. Dragonpit

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In earlier seasons, Game of Thrones has served us so many great sequences that felt like a play, filled with theatrics and drama. The season finale has something similar in store, as it pits all the major characters, still left alive by Cersei, at the Dragonpit, in a high-stakes scene.

5. Olenna’s Mic-Drop

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The Queen of Thorns lives up to her billing of being one of the most badass characters, even in her final moments, as she drops a bombshell on Jaime, brazenly revealing herself to be the mastermind behind Joffrey’s death. Her final words have gone down in GOT folklore.

Tell Cersei. I want her to know it was me.

4. The North Remembers

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This is probably the best season opener ever, as Arya exacts complete revenge for the Red Wedding, in a delightful twist.

3. The Ice Dragon

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In terms of shock value, nothing comes close to the iconic “blue dragon eye” that marked the rebirth of Viserion as an ice dragon. In terms of spectacle, there are few scenes that can match the chilling season finale, when the undead dragon unleashes a hellish blue flame that tears down the Wall and allows the White Walkers to set foot on Westeros for the first time in 8,000 years.

2. Jon Snow a.k.a. Aegon Targaryen

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In a game-changing twist, Jon Snow is revealed to be the trueborn son of Rhaegar and Lyanna, which means he is now the true heir to the Iron Throne.

1. The Spoils of War

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Daenerys Targaryen and her dragons raining fire on the Lannister army is one of the most awe-inspiring set pieces in the show’s history. What makes it truly memorable is that you want people on both sides to survive and/or succeed. Fearing for Jaime’s safety as he galloped towards Drogon with a lone spear in hand was probably my most nerve-wracking moment in the show’s history.

Honorable Mentions:

Ed Sheeran, Nymeria, Cersei’s revenge.

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Game of Thrones Season 7 – Recap

With the final season of Game of Thrones fast approaching, here is a quick-ish summary of all 7 seasons and 67 hours of TV’s greatest ever spectacle. This is a recap of Season 7.

After 6 seasons of carefully plotted and realistic fantasy drama, Season 7 feels rushed as character (re)unions are somewhat contrived and characters seem to teleport across Westeros in no time. But despite these niggling issues, the season is packed with some truly awesome sequences.

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Winterfell

After ousting the Boltons from their ancestral home, Jon and Sansa constantly bicker about ruling the North. When Sam, who is working at the Westerosi equivalent of Wikipedia, reads about a hidden cache of dragonglass at Dragonstone, Jon decides to make the trip south.

In Jon’s absence, there are more Stark reunions at Winterfell. First to arrive is Bran, who creeps out Sansa by talking about her wedding night, while Arya, who is the next to arrive, scares the hell out of her. When Littlefinger makes the fatal mistake of underestimating the Stark siblings and tries to drive a wedge between Professor X, Mystique and Jean GreySansa, his lies finally catch up to him and he ends up getting his throat slit.

King’s Landing, Dragonstone, and The Wall

At King’s Landing, a deranged Cersei Lannister recruits the equally deranged Euron Greyjoy to her cause, much to Jaime’s chagrin. Meanwhile, Daenerys Targaryen finally sets foot on Westeros soil, when her ships land at Dragonstone. Tyrion, the Hand of the Queen, concocts a plan to usurp Cersei, using the combined might of the Dothraki, Tyrells, Martells, and Greyjoys, who have declared for Dany.

In a surprising turn of events, Tyrion well-laid plans come to naught. His gambit to lay siege to King’s Landing by the Martells and the Greyjoys is thwarted, when Euron’s ships intercept them on Cersei bidding. After Cersei exacts her revenge on the Martells (for Myrcella’s death), she brilliantly outmaneuvers Tyrion again by posting a skeleton force at Casterly Rock, and letting Dany’s Unsullied take the Rock, while her main Lannister army conquers Highgarden, the Tyrell stronghold which is teeming with gold and grain. After the twin blows dealt by Cersei, Dany finally decides to unleash her dragons and Dothraki horde. The Lannister army retreating to King’s Landing is soundly beaten, and Jaime narrowly escapes from being burned alive.

At Dragonstone, Dany gives Jon permission to mine for dragonglass, after Jon’s sales pitch about the undead army. To convince Cersei, who is skeptical of the Night King’s existence, Tyrion comes up with a plan of bringing one of the wights alive to show-and-tell. A motley team, comprising of Jon, Jorah, Gendry, and the Brotherhood Without Banners (the Hound, Beric, and Thoros), is assembled for the expedition beyond the Wall. After capturing the wight, the group is trapped and stranded on a patch of ice for daysthe amount of time it takes for Gendry to run several marathons to reach the Wall, a raven to reach Dany at Dragonstone, and for Dany to get dressed up and come flying on her (GPS-enabled?) dragons. The rescue mission goes horribly wrong when the Night Kings kills one of the dragons and resurrects it as an ice dragon, which later tears down the Wall and allows the White Walkers to set foot on Westeros for the first time in 8,000 years.

When proof of the undead army is presented to Cersei at King’s Landing, an uneasy truce is established to temporarily halt hostilities. In the final moments of the season, Jon and Dany get together, as Bran and Sam unearth a crucial piece of history. Jon’s biological parents, Rhaegar and Lyanna were actually married in secret, which means Jon is the trueborn heir to the Iron Throne!

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Super Deluxe – Movie Review

Super Deluxe is a slow-burning drama that finishes with a flourish and raises some existential questions.

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Thiagarajan Kumaraja’s first movie Aaranya Kandam was an underground cult sensation that didn’t get the recognition it deserved. Thanks to the inspired casting of Vijay Sethupathy, better marketing and the stamp of approval bestowed by critics, Super Deluxe has generated enough buzz to reach a much bigger audience.

Super Deluxe is an anthology of seemingly random, but interwoven stories, featuring a stellar ensemble cast. There is a recently married couple (Samantha and Fahad Fazil) trapped in a failing marriage, a gang of teenagers who want to watch a porn movie, a former porn actress (Ramya Krishnan) coming to grips with a religious zealot of her husband (Myskin), and a doting wife (Gayathri) awaiting the return of her husband (Vijay Sethupathy), who returns as a transgender. There is also a corrupt cop whose sleazy activities, while making your skin crawl, crisscross through the different storylines.

The director parades a plethora of pop culture references, making a rewatch essential just for Easter Egg hunting. There are delightful nods to his first movie, including airplanes in the sky and a key hanging in the car. I badly wanted to pause and zoom a scene featuring a wall plastered with posters, and examine each one carefully. I loved the Carnatic rendition of the Star Wars theme. Even the subtitles were very creative in translating crass dialogues for a wider audience. (More Star Wars!)

Branded with an “A” certificate, Super Deluxe can afford to be uncompromisingly dark, but it’s at this juncture that the director gets a little carried away. With almost 3 hours of runtime, the movie feels overlong at times. The scenes featuring the corrupt cop, portrayed rather well by Bagavathy Perumal, could have steered clear of repetitive clichés. While the warehouse sequence provides both Samantha and Fahad an opportunity to showcase their acting chops, the buildup was just way too overlong. There’s a supernatural twist at the end that feels slightly out of place, but helps shepherd the movie to a logical conclusion, and also raises some thought-provoking questions.

While the film’s core message on equality was rather explicit, it also brilliantly explores existentialism, the idea that our lives are nothing but a series of random events. It’s a difficult idea to eschew, even as your mind connects the many dots and patterns in the movie. But when the camera takes to the sky and gives us a sweeping big-picture view of the lives of our motley bunch of characters, our preconceived notions are shattered and it all makes startling sense. I cannot remember the last time, if ever there was one, when a Tamil movie raised so many existential questions about the very meaning of life.

Game of Thrones Season 6 – Top 10 Moments

As supplementary reading to the Season 6 recap, we count down some of the best moments – from intimate character moments to sweeping spectacle – that make this a standout season in the show’s history.

10. The Resurrection of Jon Snow

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With fan theories running amok on the internet, one of the most closely guarded plot secrets was finally revealed when Melissandre works her magic on Jon’s dead corpse. Her attempts appear to be unsuccessful, but when Ghost looks up expectantly, we brace ourselves and Jon wakes up gasping for air!

9. Stark Reunion

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After so many close calls, this has been a long time coming. As Jon and Sansa embrace, it’s an incredibly touching reunion for the two characters (and the audience alike) who have been through so much.

8. Khaleesi

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As the Khals gather to decide Dany’s fate, all the while verbally taunting her, she watches it all unfold with a badass smirk on her face. In an incredible demonstration of power, she burns them alive and emerges unscathed as the rest of the Dothraki horde watches in awe and bows down to their new Khaleesi.

7. Frey Pie

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Arya, now equipped with a “very particular set of skills”, exacts revenge on Walder Frey by cooking (!) his children and feeding them to him, before calmly slitting his throat.

6. Battle of Mereen

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While Thrones had been teasing the Bastard Bowl throughout the season, the Battle of Mereen turned out to be a surprise treat. In a spectacularly shot battle, Dany and her dragons rain fire and incinerate the masters’ ships.

5. The Light of the Seven

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Ramin Djawadi’s haunting orchestral score shepherds us through the trial at the Sept of Baelor, as Cersei’s plan is finally revealed. Cersei unleashes a fiery vengeance on the High Sparrow, the Faith Militant, her uncle, the Tyrells, and countless others, in a huge wildfire explosion.

4. The King in the North – Part II

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We’ve heard all this before when the Northerners rallied around Robb Stark, the young wolf. This time, after a stirring speech by Lyanna Mormont, the Northern houses declare their banners for Jon Snow, the White Wolf, the King in the North!

3. Hold the Door

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In one of the most tragic and ingenious reveals ever, Hodor holds the door to save Bran and Meera, and gets caught in a horrific time-loop, involving his own heartbreaking death.

2. Tower of Joy (R + L = J)

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One of the most fiercely speculated fan theories of all time finally comes to fruition at the Tower of Joy, in one of Bran’s flashbacks. After an epic sword fight between Ned Stark’s allies and members of Aerys Targaryen’s Kingsguard, led by the legendary Arthur Dayne, Ned finds his sister Lyanna and her newborn baby at the tower. The baby is revealed to be Jon, making him the offspring of Rhaegar Targaryen.

1. Battle of the Bastards

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After an epic battle full of suspense, terror, and redemption, Jon and Sansa mete out an extremely gratifying death for the show’s most loathed character, by punching Ramsay to a bloody pulp, before feeding him to his dogs.

I had called the last bit quite rightly in my fanfic, where I had dished out a similarly painful death for Ramsay.

Honorable Mentions:

Brienne and Tormund (which deserves its own fanfic), Brienne saves Sansa, Tyrion feeds the dragons (I’m here to help, don’t eat the help), the Hound is back, Arya kills the Waif, the origin of White Walkers.

Also Read:

Game of Thrones Season 6 – Recap

With the final season of Game of Thrones fast approaching, here is a quick-ish summary of all 7 seasons and 67 hours of TV’s greatest ever spectacle. This is a recap of Season 6.

While Season 5 was somber and depressing, Season 6 is all about rebirth and redemption, and makes a fine case for being the best ever season of Game of Thrones.

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King’s Landing

After spending most of the season stripped of her power, Cersei unleashes a fiery vengeance on the High Sparrow, the Faith Militant, her uncle, the Tyrells, and countless others, in a huge wildfire explosion. On the day of the trial, Margaery looks worried when Cersei is nowhere to be found. But before anyone could escape, the building blows up, exterminating everyone inside. Poor little Tommen commits suicide, and Cersei is crowned as the Queen.

While the Sept of Baelor is burning, Jaime is several miles away at the Twins, after helping the Freys recapture the Tully stronghold, which they had lost to the Blackfish, Catelyn Stark’s uncle.

Winterfell

Game of Thrones ended years of heated speculation, as Jon Snow finally returns from the dead, resurrected by Melisaandre. There is a touching reunion between Jon and Sansa, after Brienne rescues Sansa and Theon from the Boltons. With Davos offering advice, the Stark siblings plot to take back Winterfell from the Boltons. Sansa writes to Littlefinger, who is at the Vale, asking for support, and sends Brienne against her wishes to recruit the Tullys to their cause, while the wildlings agree to fight for Jon after Tormund puts in a nice word. A few other Northern houses, including that of fan-favorite Lyanna Mormont, declare for Jon and the army meets Ramsay’s forces in an epic climactic battle at Winterfell.

Jon emerges triumphant after a timely intervention from Littlefinger’s men changes the tide of the battle. Jon punches Ramsay to a bloody pulp, before Sansa feeds him to his dogs, in an extremely satisfying death for the show’s most loathed character. Shortly afterward, the northern Lords, led by Lyanna Mormont, declare Jon as the King in the North!

The Wall

Bran watches old reels of his family with the three-eyed raven. The flashbacks confirm one of the most fiercely speculated theory of all time, Rhaegar + Lyanna = Jon. Bran’s addiction to these videos leads the Night King to the three-eyed raven’s secret lair. In one of the most tragic and ingenious reveals ever, Hodor holds the door to save Bran and Meera, who later run into Benjen Stark, the second Stark to come back after being presumed dead.

Braavos

Arya aces Assasin 201, which evaluates your fighting skills when you are blind. But, after two seasons of trying to become no one, a girl suddenly decides she is Arya Stark of Winterfell and sets out to Westeros. She makes a stop at the Twins, the scene of the Red Wedding, and serves Walder Frey his sons in a pie, before slitting his throat. The North Remembers, Walder Frey!

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Do you remember who the last surviving king in the War of the Five Kings is? Not Stannis, Joffrey, Rob or Renly. It’s Balon Greyjoy, who is eventually killed by his brother, Euron. A kingsmoot happens, where Euron gets elected to the throne ahead of Yara and Theon, who flee for Essos.

Essos

At the end of last season, Daenerys was taken prisoner by a Dothraki horde. Jorah and Daario set out to rescue her, but the Mother of Dragons is no damsel in distress. In an incredible demonstration of strength, she burns the Khals alive, and the remainder of the Dothraki reverently join her army.

In Dany’s absence, Tyrion keeps a fragile peace at Mereen before the masters lay siege to the city. Just when things begin to look desperate, Dany and her dragons save the day by raining fire on the masters’ ships. After 6 seasons of wandering around Essos, Daenerys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, and Breaker of Chains, is finally coming home to Westeros, thanks to the ships seized from the masters, and the Greyjoy ships offered by Theon and Yara.

Also Read:

Game of Thrones Season 5 – Top 10 Moments

As supplementary reading to the Season 5 recap, we count down some of the best moments from the season. While Season 5 is wildly unpredictable, it also remains the most depressing of all seasons.

10. Cersei’s Prophecy

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Game of Thrones shows us a rare flashback, as a young Cersei meets a witch, who makes a bunch of cryptic, but accurate prophecies about her, including her marriage to Robert Baratheon and the subsequent deaths of her children.

[Spoiler Alert] It’s interesting to note a part of the prophecy from A Feast for Crows that didn’t make it into the show. “When your tears have drowned you, the valonqar (brother) shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you.”

9. Shireen

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Stannis had been on a redemption arc this season: helping the Night’s Watch, marching to kill Ramsay Bolton, and correcting people’s grammar. But, he commits the ultimate irredeemable act when he burns his daughter alive, in one of the most horrifying and controversial scenes in the show’s history.

8. Walk of Shame

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Cersei is forced to take a walk of atonement through the streets of King’s Landing for her sins. I think it’s as good a time to remind the High Sparrow and Septa Unella that the Lannisters pay their debts.

7. Arya kills Meryn Trant

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Arya crosses off the first name in her kill-list, Meryn Trant, in Kill Bill style. It is bloody, brutal, and a satisfyingly gory death.

6. The Martells send their Regards

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The Dorne storyline ends on a devastating note as Myrcella dies of poisoning, after a heart-warming emotional moment between Jaime and his niecedaughter.

5. Jon is elected Lord Commander

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After Jon turns down Stannis’ amazing offer to make him Jon Stark, Lord of Winterfell, he is elected the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch.

4. Dany and Tyrion

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The alliance of these two fan favorites is yet to happen in the books, which makes their meeting all the more electrifying. Dany and Tyrion size each other up in a fascinating scene, involving sharp and witty exchanges that are everything we’d hoped for. Tyrion passes his interview in flying colors and Dany decides to take Tyrion as her chief advisor.

3. Et Tu, Brute

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In the season finale, Jon finds himself facing a mutiny led by Alister Thorne and a band of Night’s Watch brothers, who don’t approve of his decision to ally with wildlings. Several knives are buried into Jon Snow’s heart with the words, “For the Watch”. The final blade that kills Jon belongs to Olly, his steward.

2. How to Ride Your Dragon

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I hadn’t fully enjoyed this epic sequence initially, since it follows Shireen’s death and I hadn’t gotten rid of Shireen’s screams out of my head by then. But taken in isolation, Dany escaping the Daznak fighting pits on Drogon’s back, after the dragon torches the rebellious Sons of the Harpy to smithereens, is one of the most amazing and climactic moments of the season.

1. Hardhome

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The Battle of Hardhome marks one of the most exciting and thrilling battles in the show’s history, as Jon and the wildings face off against the White Walkers and their wights. Jon kills a White Walker using his Valyrian sword, and the battle ends with the iconic scene of the Night King locking eyes with the fleeing Jon Snow, raising his arms slowly, and resurrecting every wildling who died in the battle.

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