Avengers: Age of Ultron | Movie Review

Avengers-Age-of-Ultron-Poster

The Avengers was one of the best films to come out from Marvel Studios; it was close to epic in terms of super hero films. Avengers: Age of Ultron might not be as epic as the predecessor, but it’s still a good watch.

Joss Whedon kick starts the movie with our superheroes trying to retrieve Loki’s scepter from a fictitious European country. While they do the needful, they realize that Hydra experiments have created the twins – Quick Silver with superhuman speed, the Scarlet Witch with telekinetic powers. Scarlet hypnotizes Stark to see things, because of which he decides to create artificially intelligent Ultron defence program using the scepter’s gem. Things go wrong, as expected, and Ultron revolts against the Avengers; it’s time for some bang-bang! On script and direction front, Whedon does a good job; he brings out the best from all his leads and does justice to the ‘Hulkbuster’ episode. However, he loses steam on screenplay; there are multiple episodes with multiple threads, and all of these weren’t really well-connected. The climax also seemed to be hurried.

While the star/Stark had maximum footage in the first film, this one provides equal opportunity to all the leads. Robert Downey looked stoned at times, but still comes up with a good act; he’s good as long as he’s witty! Chris Evans and Mark Ruffalo are decent while Chris Hemsworth is great; his expressions when people are trying to lift Mjolnir, his hammer, are brilliant. Jeremy Renner has more screen-time than one would expect, and he’s good. Scarlett Johansson is hot, and Elizabeth Olsen is hotter. James Spader brings life to Ultron, but honestly, he’s no Loki/Tom Hiddleston. The rest of the cast is alright.

Music by Brian Tyler and Danny Elfman is decent, but we mostly hear the theme composed by Alan Silvestri on-screen. Cinematography by Ben Davis is perfect, while editing by Jeffrey Ford and Lisa Lassek is neat. 3D effects are good, but not breathtaking.

Is it worth your time and money??: While not as spectacular as its predecessor, Avengers: Age of Ultron is a good film. The action episodes are well canned, and you’re sure to enjoy Iron Man fighting Hulk. My suggestion: don’t expect too much, and you wouldn’t be disappointed!

Worth mention: Iron Man and Hulk’s fist bump!

Acting: 8.5/10
Story-Screenplay-Direction: 8/10
Technical Aspects: 8/10

Verdict: 8/10

Margarita With A Straw | Movie Review

Margarita With A Straw

Margarita With A Straw is not a regular film. It’s one which showcases the realities of life very realistically, without sugar-coating it.

Director Shonali Bose tells the story of a young teenage girl who happens to be discovering her sexuality. Oh ya, she also happens to be suffering from cerebral palsy, but this doesn’t stop her from wanting to explore and do things every other girl her age would want to do. Shonali showcases this all naturally, without ever drifting from the subject. While direction is spot on, the screenplay is snail paced and one wishes for the film to move faster.

Kalki, hats-off! She’s absolutely brilliant and brings life to a character very difficult to portray. I don’t think anyone else would have dared to take up this role; she does justice to it to the T. Sayani Gupta is equally good in a challenging role. Revathi is outstanding as the mother, while the rest of the cast is perfect.

On technical front, music and background score by Mickey McCleary is good. Editing by Monisha R Baldawa is neat while cinematography by Anne Misawa is decent.

Is it worth your time and money?: It’s not a film which can be enjoyed by everyone because of its storyline. But it’s also a film everyone needs to watch just to get out of the shell we’ve built around ourselves, to face reality. If not in the theatre, must watch on DVD.

Worth mention: Acting by Kalki Koechlin

Acting: 9.5/10
Story-Screenplay-Direction: 8.5/10
Technical Aspects: 8/10

Verdict: 8.5/10

Ok Bangaram | Movie Review

Ok-Bangaram

Mani Ratnam is one of the best directors of our time. But for the last 11 years, none of his movies, starting from Yuva, have made an impression. With Kadali, I thought he lost his touch. Thankfully not!

Ok Bangaram is a simple love story – no drama, just pure romance. The script is nothing special; boy meets girl, they fall in love, neither wants to get married, live in together, and voila! One can predict the ending just by watching the trailer of the movie, but it’s Mani Ratnam’s pure genius that keeps you engrossed for the two odd hours. The chemistry between the lead pair is magical. The way he showcased the elderly couple’s storyline is subtle yet brilliant. The screenplay never overwhelms you; it’s just a love story narrated in a beautiful way.

Dulquer Salmaan is excellent in the lead role. He has a guy next door charm, and puts up a great performance. The best part is that he never tried too hard, it seemed like he was just being himself. Nani’s voice suited him perfectly. Nitya Menen is absolutely gorgeous. I can’t imagine anyone else who could have put up a better act than her. Her expressions, smile, overall performance – splendid! Prakash Raj is perfect as the house owner, and Leela Samson is great as his wife. The rest of the cast is decent.

Mani Ratnam definitely brings out the best in A. R. Rahman. Music is soulful and excellent, and all songs are brilliantly picturized. The background score and mixing are equally good. Editing by Sreekar Prasad is neat, while cinematography by P. C. Sreeram is superb. On production front, the movie is flawless (Dil Raju and team).

Is it worth your time and money?: Absolutely. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and have a gut feel that you will too, but only if you don’t compare it to anything else. Mani Ratnam is back (maybe not at his best, but back) to showcase a beautiful yet simple love story. Just go enjoy!

Worth mention: The chemistry between Dulquer and Nitya.

Acting: 9.5/10
Story-Screenplay-Direction: 8.5/10
Technical Aspects: 9/10

Verdict: 8.5/10

Prego Alfresco | Restaurant Review

Place: Prego Alfresco
Location: Westin, Hitech City
Cuisine: Mediterranean, Global Cuisine
Meal: Dinner

I’ve heard a lot about how good the food is at Westin, especially at Prego, for a long time now, but always felt that the place was too expensive for my liking. When I received an invite to dine at the newly launched restaurant, it was time, finally.

I walked in to the pool side restaurant through the Italian dine-in, and the place looked fabulous. It was perfect weather to dine in the open, and the ambiance was quintessential. As we, a few foodies settled down, the chef came in and gave a brief on what was going to be served for dinner –  their new offering, Mediterranean cuisine.

To go with the cuisine, each table had a Mediterranean platter with Olive Tepanade, Tomato and Parmesan dip, and Mushroom and Truffle Oil dip alongside Za’atar Flatbread and Khaboos.

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Breads and Dips

Both the dips were delicious; the Tomato and Parmesan dip was spicy and just perfect to my liking, while the mushroom dip was creamy and scrumptious. The tepanade too was equally good, but nothing to beat the dips. The breads served along were soft, with the za’atar flatbread being the best of the lot. Yummilicious!

There was a fixed menu for the evening, with no choice for the vegetarians, so I asked for whatever was on the list: Mediterranean Antipasto for starters, Vegetable Timbale for main course, and Phyllo wrap and Bougasta for desserts. Before that, we were served with Amuse Bouche – Roasted Bell pepper pin-wheel with Goat Cheese.

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Amuse Bouche

While this looked good, it didn’t taste any good for I thought it lacked flavour.

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Mediterranean Antipasto

The starters were served soon, and no, this is definitely not what I would have ordered if I had a choice. With Chilli marinated Olives, Caramelized Figs, Pickled Grapes, Tomato Feta salad, Baked Artichokes, and Olive Tapenade on Crunchy Ciabatta, this really wasn’t for me. Nevertheless, it was a different experience to hog on such exotically presented veggies. I thought the Pickled Grapes were the best of the lot while the Ciabatta was a close second.

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Vegetable Timbale

Time for the main course. Vegetable Timbale with Stalk of Lemon Couscous, Chickpeas and Mediterranean vegetables. This didn’t look appetizing at all. The veggies tasted raw and the Couscous was barely alright. The chickpeas turned out to be the saviour in this disappointing dish, for they were the only things which tasted alright. Utter failure altogether.

Firstly, it didn’t taste good, and secondly, the portion served was so little that I wondered if this were starters or main-course. To help fill my tummy, I requested the chef to serve a vegetarian version of the Lamb Moussaka served to the non-vegetarians.

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Veg. Moussaka

This at least looked more palatable than the Timbale, but the result was the same. The eggplant was well cooked, yes, and tasted good with the cheese; but the rest of the vegetable pile with Zucchini and peppers was undercooked and tasted terrible. The sauce too was nothing great. Two strikes!

So disappointed I was with the main course, that I wished to have a slice of Pizza from Prego instead. And voilà, a foodie ordered for a Margarita.

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Margarita

This actually turned out to be something palatable, not just for me but also for a fellow foodie who was struggling to cut through her Lemon Chicken (which apparently didn’t even have a hint of lemon). The pizza was good, but at the same time, nothing exceptional for I could taste the flour in every bite. Good, but not excellent.

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Phyllo Wrap, Walnut Baklava and Bougasta

The desserts, Phyllo Wrap and Bougasta were served with the addition of Walnut Baklava. While decent, they were all too sweet for my linking.

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Blue Curacao Mocktail and Watermelon Juice

I had ordered for a Blue Curacao mocktail while struggling with the main course, and this turned out to be alright.

Bottom line, I was left discontent at the end of my first meal at Westin. But for the breads and dips on the table, none of the other items could tease my taste buds. I had high expectations, but had to return home in utter dismay.

The fact that most of these dishes were priced exorbitantly didn’t make things any better. The Couscous, which wouldn’t even fill a small corner of my tummy was priced at 675 bucks + taxes. Yes, some people might have the appetite to spend lavishly, but even for that, the food needs to taste decent at the least.

As far as I’m concerned, this might actually be my first and last meal at Westin (though I’ve been wanting to visit Prego for a long time and still haven’t) for my experience on this night wasn’t enthralling enough for me to come back.

Food: 6/10
Service: 8/10
Ambiance: 8.5/10
Meal for 1: Rs. N/A

Verdict: 6.5/10

Rayalaseema Ruchulu | Restaurant Review

Place: Rayalaseema Ruchulu
Location: Opp. Railway Station, Lakdikapul
Cuisine: South Indian
Meal: Lunch (with a friend)

I’ve been told that Rayalaseema Ruchulu serves yummy Ragi Sangati, but never ventured to try it. A friend of mine was in town from Bangalore, and given that she wanted to try local delicacies, I was finally here, at the Lakdikapul branch. The place was packed on a Sunday afternoon, and we were lucky to have a found a table without waiting, on the first floor. The ambiance was alright, no qualms about it.

We wanted to try the Thali, but it being a Sunday, they weren’t serving one. So we ordered for 3 portions of Ragi Sangati with Gutti Vankaya and Mutton curry (for my friend). We also asked for Lassi.

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Gutti Vankaya Kura
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Ragi Sangati

The food was served pretty soon. The quantity seemed like a lot on first glance. The Gutti Vankaya Kura was spicy, but pretty delicious. The eggplant however, wasn’t well cooked. But still, a yummy curry. The Ragi Sangati was decent; what can possible go wrong with it?

The spice was too much to handle, especially for my friend who found the Mutton curry too hot. We were eagerly awaiting for the Lassi, but it didn’t arrive until we were almost done with the meal; pathetic service and coordination between waiters.

Overall, both of us were satisfied with the food, but the service was bothersome. And then came the bill; whopping 1200 bucks for a meal for 2. We could have had a full course buffet (a more satisfying meal) for the same price. Maybe its worth the price for the meat eaters, but I don’t see any value for the veggies.

Food: 8/10
Service: 6/10
Ambiance: 7.5/10
Meal for 2: ~ Rs. 1200/-

Verdict: 7/10

Dunkin Donuts | Restaurant Review

Place: Dunkin Donuts
Location: Inorbit Mall, Hitech City
Cuisine: American, Fast-food
Meal: Lunch

No, it’s not Dunkin Donuts. It’s Dunkin Donuts and more 😀

That’s the first line uttered by the marketing manager as we, a few foodies, entered the DD’s first store in Hyderabad for a tasting session. The joint is on the ground floor of Inorbit Mall, facing the lake, and had very lively ambiance. We soon settled down for a chat with the PR team, who gave us a run through of DD culture, their presence in India, and more importantly the reasoning behind why it’s more than just donuts in our beloved country. I found their concept to be brilliant; target the ‘Happily Screwed’ crowd!

Once we were enlightened, it was time to taste the food; food one wouldn’t normally except at DD, food which isn’t regular. First stop, Wicked Wrap; complex, crazy, awsomely wicked.

Wicked Wrap
Veg. Wicked Wrap

And boy, this was wicked. Crunchy nachos, jalapeno patty, spicy chipotle and raw mango sauces on a multi grain tortilla, this was definitely one of the best wraps I’ve tasted. It was truly wicked, with the spice lingering in my mouth for a long time. It hurt so good.

To help gulp the wicked wrap, we were served some Iced Tea.

Dunkin Donuts Restaurant Review by Sasikanth Paturi
Spiked Iced Tea and Iced Green Tea

Spiked Iced Tea had a cinnamon touch to it, and tasted very different; different good. The Iced Green Tea had a strong green tea flavor, yet was perfect. These really were saviours on my wicked ride.

If you’re not up to taste the wickedness, there’s a Not So Wicked Wrap for the faint hearted.

Next came the Tough Guy Burger, a burger that makes heart breaks 0.223% less heart breaking.

Dunkin Donuts Restaurant Review by Sasikanth Paturi
Veg. Tough Guy Burger

With the burger bun replaced with a tough bagel loaded with sesame seeds, this was definitely a definitely a tough burger. A delicious patty loaded with elephant yam, cheese and spicy mustard sauce; this was another winner.

Dunkin Donuts Restaurant Review by Sasikanth Paturi
Crunchy Joe

It was now time to taste Crunchy Joe. With toasted bun stuffed with Indianized black-eye bean curry, this was amazingly delicious. There was crunch in every bite; I absolutely loved it.

I wanted to taste the Naughty Lucy burger before I indulged on the Donuts, and while I wait for it, I asked for a Chocolate Dunkaccino.

Dunkin Donuts Restaurant Review by Sasikanth Paturi
Dunkaccino

Served with whipped cream, the chocolate shake was almost perfect. I just wish it were thicker.

Dunkin Donuts Restaurant Review by Sasikanth Paturi
Juicy Lucy Burger

Any finally came my Lucy! With a patty stuffed with molten cheese, eating this couldn’t get more messy than this. But who cares, when you’re in for some pure bliss. Lucy was super-duper cheesy 😀

Time now for the donuts.

Dunkin Donuts Restaurant Review by Sasikanth Paturi
Dunkin Donuts
Dunkin Donuts Restaurant Review by Sasikanth Paturi
Dunkin Donuts

I had a bite of almost everything on plate, and they were all yum. Loved the Chocolate ones the best. My usual favourite at DD, Boston Creme was missing today, but the rest made it up for it. Amazing finish to the brilliant meal.

Overall, the most satisfying meal I’ve had in a long long time. Perfect ambiance, great service and awesome food. And to make it more special, DD team gave me a goodie bag with six donuts, a DD mug and coupons for 365 days of donuts! The pricing might be a little on the higher side to dine in often (60 bucks for donuts, 60-200 bucks for the burgers + taxes), but I feel that they are still worth it. Go get your mojo back!!

Food: 9.5/10
Service: 9/10
Ambiance: 9/10
Meal for 1: Rs. N/A

Original Verdict: 9.5/10

Updated Verdict: 8/10

I’ve visited DD twice after writing the review, and the standard have dropped substantially. The service is mediocre, and hygiene has gone for a toss. They will need to pull up their socks in case they wish to sustain in the market!

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Yevade Subramanyam | Movie Review

Yevade-subramanyam

Yevade Subramanyam is a movie I can connect with; it was about three years ago that I took a similar trip to the Himalayas, the trip of my life thus far. But thank god for I am no where like Subramanyam.

Directed by debutant Nag Ashwin, the movie is about an overachiveving, materialistic guy, Subramanyam, who cares only about his future. On the other hand, his friend, Rishi, is a guy full of life, one who wants to explore the world, but most importantly travel to Himalayas with Subbu. They soon meet a lively girl, Anandi, who does whatever she feels like (one very similar to Rishi), and Subbu needs her consent to reach his life’s ambition. The rest of the story is all about how destiny leads Subbu to Himalayas, and in the process, teaches him life’s biggest lesson. All of this is showcased in a neat manner and while direction is good, there’s big scope for improvement. On the downside, the screenplay happens to be mediocre (for no fault of its own).

Nani does a good job as the materialistic guy. But the movie belongs to Vijay Deverakonda and Malavika Nair. They are both brilliant and full of energy. Their performance is what makes Yevade Subrahmanyam click. Krishnam Raju and Nassar are alright, while Ritu Verma is plain average. Rajesh Vivek has a meaty role and does well.

On technical front, music and cinematography apart, this happens to be one of the most mediocre films I’ve watched till date. Background score and sound mixing are terrible; there are multiple shots with two different tunes playing without sync. Add to that the most pathetic editing ever by Kotagiri Venkateshwara Rao; scenes end abruptly on numerous occasions without making any sense. Even an amateur short film maker can edit better. Maybe the film was shortened for length issues, understandable, but there’s definitely a better way of doing it.

Is it worth your time and money??: For the story part of it, and the acting, yes. But the appalling editing is a big negative. Nevertheless, it’s worth a watch for the message.

Worth mention: Performances by Vijay Deverakonda and Malavika Nair.

Acting: 8.5/10
Story-Screenplay-Direction: 7.5/10
Technical Aspects: 6/10

Verdict: 7.5/10

Detective Byomkesh Bakshy | Movie Review

Detective Byomkesh BakshyPeople have been talking about the Doordarshan serial Detective Byomkesh Bakshy, and how good it was, but I somehow don’t remember ever watching it. And I’m glad I don’t, cause that kinda made me enjoy the movie without comparing it to anything.

I’ve enjoyed all of Dibakar Banarjee movies till date, and while all of his previous films dealt with reality, this is his first try at fiction. While the script does justice to the character created by Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay, I thought Dibakar faltered in showcasing it on the screen. For a thriller, the screenplay was awkwardly haphazard; I really had to concentrate to understand what was happening, and rattle my brain for it all to make sense. Yes, one needs to use their thought process to enjoy a thriller, but not to an extent when it starts to get onto your nerves. Nevertheless, I found the direction to be spot on. The climax proves the calibre of Dibakar as a director; pure genius.

The movie scores big time on acting front, with near splendid performances by almost everyone. Sushant Singh Rajput put his best foot forward and came up with a memorable act. Anand Tiwari is brilliant as Ajit, and so is Neeraj Kabi as the antagonist. Swastika Mukherjee and Divya Menon are decent, while the rest of the cast does well.

Music (by various artists) is perfect and goes well with the flow of the movie. Editing by Manas Mittal and Namrata Rao is neat, and cinematography by Nikos Andritsakis is excellent. Production values, especially the set, are great.

Is it worth your time and money??: If not for the chaotic screenplay, I think it’s a good watch. I’m actually looking forward to the sequel, and so should you!

Worth mention: The climax!

Acting: 8.5/10
Story-Screenplay-Direction: 7.5/10
Technical Aspects: 8.5/10

Verdict: 8/10

Chili’s | Restaurant Review

Place: Chili’s
Location: Inorbit Mall, Hitech City
Cuisine: American, Mexican
Meal: Dinner

Chili’s used to be one of my favorite joints while I lived in Starkville, USA. Whenever I was bored with the same food, Chili’s Black-bean Burger was the savior. I’ve been wanting to visit the Indian outlet for a long time, and finally, on a Monday evening, here I was for a tasting session. The ambience was almost exactly the same as in the States, and I made myself comfortable at a corner booth.

The chef suggested that I try some of their best sellers, and I obliged. So I started off with a small portion of Texas Cheese Poppers and Fried Quesadilla bites, along with a Virgin Pina Colada.

Chili's Restaurant Review by Sasikanth Paturi
Texas Cheese Poppers

The Texas Cheese Poppers were served in quick time, along with Chipotle Sour Cream. First impression, they were greasy. They tasted good, with cheese melting in my mouth, but the oil was bothering me. The cheese was oozing out oil as well, so.

Chili's Restaurant Review by Sasikanth Paturi
Fried Quesadilla Bites

The Fried Quesadilla Bites were served along with Chipotle Ranch, and these turned out to be excellent. With grilled paneer and cheese, this was a definite winner! And the ranch tasted better than the sour cream.

Chili's Restaurant Review by Sasikanth Paturi
Pina Colada

The Pina Colada arrived soon, and tasted good. The pineapple was pretty dominant.

Next, I wanted to taste their Queso, and so asked for a small portion. I was told that it’s usually served on a skillet, but they made an exception and gave me a bowlfull.

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Queso Dip

While the Queso was good, the chips didn’t catch my fancy. I found them pretty heavy, and would have preferred lighter chips.

Chili's Restaurant Review by Sasikanth Paturi
Texas Cheese Fries

It was now time for Texas Cheese Fries. Loaded with Terlingua Chili, veggies and tons of cheese, this looked yum. However, on taste front, it was just alright, for I really didn’t enjoy the chili much. Nevertheless, the cheese and fries were yum yum.

For the main course, I asked for a Veggie Bite Burger, and a portion of their Veggie and Cheese Quesadilla. But first, another drink; Blue Pacific.

Chili's Restaurant Review by Sasikanth Paturi
Blue Pacific

Served in a Martini glass, this tasted very different. Different good.

Chili's Restaurant Review by Sasikanth Paturi
Veggie Bite Burger

The burger turned out to be decent. The bun was toasted, and the patty was good.

Chili's Restaurant Review by Sasikanth Paturi
Veggie and Cheese Quesadilla

The Quesadilla, served with Pico de Gallo and sour cream, was again a winner. With tons of mushrooms, home-made cream sauce and cheese, this turned of to be excellent. On the downside, I found the texture of the cream sauce to be too thick; would have preferred it to be lighter.

To finish things off, I asked for the Molten Chocolate Cake. The chef suggested Chocolate Chip Paradise Pie, but I was in no mood for caramel, so.

Chili's Restaurant Review by Sasikanth Paturi
Molten Chocolate Cake

This turned out to be good; chocolate was oozing with every bite. However, the cake was overbaked, and so, a little too dry.

Overall, a satisfactory meal. Food was decent and drinks were great. Of the starters, the Fried Quesadilla was worth it. The service was impeccable, with the manager Pavan attending to my every need. The chilled out ambiance gives this place a definite edge. They might be priced a little on the higher side in general, but their value meals for lunch and dinner are a steal. Bottomline, nothing exceptional but worth a visit.

Food: 7.5/10
Service: 9/10
Ambiance: 8.5/10
Meal for 1: N/A

Verdict: 7.5/10

Fast & Furious 7 | Movie Review

Fast & Furious 7

Fast & Furious 7 is touted to be the last ride. It probably wasn’t their intention when they started with the production, but circumstances have led Furious 7 to be the one last ride with Paul Walker.

James Wan, who’s directed horror movies like The Conjuring in the past, is in the driver seat for the last, ok, enough of it. There are tons of action episodes and chases, most of which are well canned; but the fast-paced action seemed to have a burden on someone who’s’ done horror his entire life. While you might at times feel a little nauseated, James still does a decent job on direction front. Planning the screenplay must have been a big challenge, because the untimely demise of one of the main characters; nevertheless, Chris Morgan does well.

Vin Diesel barely acts, but he gets the job done, like he’s done in the remaining five films. Paul’s footage is pulled off well by his doubles. Jason Statham is perfect as the antagonist, and gives the lead pair a good fight. Dwayne Johnson has minimal presence, and thank god for that 😛 . Michelle has a dead expression for most part (but why!). The rest of the cast, is just alright.

Music by Brian Tyler could have been better. The sound effects and mixing however, are excellent. So is the cinematography by Stephen Windon and Marc Spicer. While editing (by a bunch of guys) is decent, the film might seem a little too long for most.

Is it worth your time and money?: Forget logic, it’s all about action; it’s Fast & Furious. With well canned stunts, and a decent storyline, you have a good action film yes. And more than that, the montage towards the end will leave you teary. So, what more do you need?

Worth mention: Almost all the action stunts make you go whoa. And the montage!

Acting: 7.5/10
Story-Screenplay-Direction: 7/10
Technical Aspects: 7.5/10

Verdict: 7.5/10