Sunday, December 02, 2018


The transformation that the 10-plex at Fresh Pond has undergone since I saw Enthiran there eight years ago is pretty impressive; it's basically just the walls that are left, the the island-style concession stand gone in favor of a self-serve area in the corner, ticket touchscreens in the middle of the lobby, seats replaced twice, and, oh yeah, the first one played on film. I wasn't noting that then, but a few months later at the sci-fi festival, it was one of the 35mm prints and projectionist David Kornfeld put the whole thing on one platter and the three-hour runtime was a bit much for some of the folks there, especially when the word "Intermission" came up and the movie just kept going.

The website's kind of a work in progress, though - there's actually no page that just lists showtimes - you have to go to a movie's page and then look at the sidebar - and I've occasionally had it hang when switching between days. On the other hand, the service fee is just one dollar and it does not ask you to create an account and remember another password or have your credit card information permanently saved on another server. That was pretty helpful when I wanted to make sure I got a decent set at the Tamil 3D screening without a whole lot of rigmarole.

They were also quick to respond when I came down and said the projection was messed up - it was all green and pink like I've never seen before. Is that an alternate 3D process, maybe an anaglyph on, and projectors can just switch between that on the fly? It makes sense, software and data-wise, but I've never seen theaters dealing with it.

Anyway, it meant I got to see Superstar Rajni's special animated "vanity card" twice, and someday I've got to ask the Indian folks at work what his deal is in detail, because I can't think of any American stars who lean into their own egos that much without being hated. But, nope, folks were hooting and screaming when he showed up, and maybe some of it's ironic, but what if it's not?

The movie itself isn't quite the hoot that the first one was, and not just because the first time was my first encounter with the cult of Rajinikanth. Even more than with most Indian movies I've seen, It almost feels like Shankar had two movies he wanted to make, with the evil cell phone movie getting mashed up with the Enthiran sequel, and I wouldn't necessarily be opposed to someone pulling the mobile phone stuff out and remaking that. There's a good horror movie that doesn't need robots at all there, even if robots do usually make everything better.


* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 1 December 2018 in Apple Cinemas Cambridge/Fresh Pond #3 (first-run, Tamil, ReadD 3D DCP)

The long-awaited sequel to Shankar's Enthiran is in some ways a lot more conventional than its predecessor; with no musical numbers and no romantic comedy subplots, it's less likely to cause the sort of severe whiplash suffered by people who had never seen this sort of masala film but were looking for a big sci-fi action movie. It's still pretty bizarre for folks who don't know what they're getting into, and a lot of fun, if not the insane, jaw-dropping roller coaster its predecessor was.

Life in Chennai has mostly returned to normal since the android Chitti went on his rampage, and his creator Dr. Vaseegaran (Rajinikanth) has recently built a new robot, Nila (Amy Jackson), who is sexy, sardonic, and a bit more bound by Asimov's Three Laws than Chitti was, making Vaseegaran's girlfriend Sana jealous when she regularly phones him. One of those calls gets interrupted by his phone flying away, which is happening all over Chennai, a mystery that stumps everyone from scientists to the government to the executives at the mobile networks, though the audience can probably draw a quick line to Pakshi Rajan (Akshay Kumar), the ornithologist who hung himself from a mobile phone tower at the start of the movie. When the phones stop just flying away but instead start returning to murder people, Vaseegaran says that the best way to fight them would be to reactivate Chitti, although some - notably Dhinendra Bohra (Sudhanshu Pandey), son of the AI researcher who opposed Vaseegaran last time - are prone to disagree.

Enthiran threw a lot of genres into its blender, but it wasn't really a horror movie, and I don't know whether it's thus logical or surprising that the first half of 2.0 turns out to be a good one, in a sort of 1950s way where there's a serious scientist investigating the paranormal - serious in attitude; the pseudoscience he spouts is kind of ridiculous - and a general public kind of perplexed by the strange things happening but not really alarmed. It's got a lot of little things that work - the everyday object weaponized against its users, some striking and eerie visuals, gross kills that are shot in a way that mostly allows one to imagine the worst, and a cell-phone-man monster design that should look silly but is actually genuinely creepy. It builds to the big and genuinely weird, with some big CGI effects that are simultaneously twisted and whimsical and climaxing on a big action scene that is kind of delightful not just for its scale but for how it makes Rajinikanth seeming stiff and less than fluid work in-character as Chitti wreaks havoc.

Full review at EFC.

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