Without Will Smith Independence Day sequel flounders; Udta Punjab flies high
Independence Day: Resurgence**
Dir: Roland Emmerich
Starring: Liam Hemsworth, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Jessie T. Usher, Maika Monroe, Angelababy, Judd Hirsch, Sela Ward, Brent Spiner, Deobia Oparei, Vivica A. Fox, William Fichtner,
The first Independence Day was a global smash and turned Will Smith into an international action superstar. Twenty years on the world-destroying aliens from the first movie are back and so are director Roland Emmerich and stars Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Judd Hirsch, Brent Spiner, Vivica A. Fox and Robert Loggia, in parts both big and small. What is not back is the fun of the original and the impact that it made with its spectacular special effects depicting global destruction on a massive scale. In the last two decades we’ve seen so many alien invasions and doomsday scenarios on the big screen that the only feeling Independence Day: Resurgence evokes is that of "ho-hum; haven’t we seen all this before?" Plus - and perhaps most tellingly - a wise-cracking Will Smith isn’t on hand to compensate for the strictly-by-the-numbers script and its numerous flaws, including imperceptible nods to characterisation which barely scratch the surface. Bland Liam Hemsworth is a poor substitute for the absent Smith.
In the absence of either an engaging plot or any originality or any charismatic stars (though Bill Pullman shows he still has what it takes as the now ex-President of the United States, Thomas Whitmore) one has to find ways to amuse oneself till the end-credits roll. I passed the time by contemplating the growing box-office clout of China and how it can change the fortunes of an intended blockbuster. One can see that here in the presence of Hong Kong star Angelababy and Singapore’s Chin Han. Keep a lookout for more and more Asian stars to feature in big budget Hollywood extravaganzas as we go forward.
Cut to chase: Hardly resurgent, more like submerged.
Udta Punjab *** ½
Dir: Abhishek Chaubey
Starring: Shahid Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Alia Bhatt, Diljit Dosanjh, Satish KaushikTaking on the subject of the proliferation of illegal drugs and its corrupt nexus with politics in the Indian Punjab, Udta Punjab is certainly not an easy watch. Doses of black humour are interspersed throughout but the movie does not hold back in its harrowing depiction of the effects of drug addiction and its impact on individuals and families. But it’s a film that - despite certain weaknesses – will leave its mark on you.
The tale centres on four individuals who are eventually brought into each other’s orbit. Shahid Kapoor is Tommy Singh, the rapping rockstar whose drug-fuelled lifestyle has a huge influence on his worshipping fans till he experiences an life-altering epiphany; Alia Bhatt is an unnamed Bihari migrant worker who happens upon a packet of heroin that she decides to peddle on her own and gets pulled into a traumatic experience; Diljit Dosanjh (a big star in Indian Punjabi cinema but making his Bollywood debut here) as Sartaj Singh, a low-level cop, happy enough to take a cut for merely looking the other way, till the day his own brother overdoses; and Kareena Kapoor Khan is Preet Sahini, an activist doctor working with drug addicts. The performances by all the leads are very good though Shahid Kapoor is a bit one-note. Alia Bhatt, on the other hand, continues to grow as a performer, Kareena Kapoor shows what she can do when she is presented with meaty material, and Diljit Dosanjh brings authenticity to his role.
Cut to chase: Pulls no punches and makes an impact.
* Not on your life ** Hardly worth the bother ** ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only *** Good enough for a look see ***½ Recommended viewing **** Don’t miss it **** ½ Almost perfect ***** Perfection