Sunday, February 27, 2011

True Grit Movie Review

True Grit Movie ReviewFilm: "True Grit"; Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen; Cast: Hailee Steinfeld, Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin; Rating: **1/2

It is always disappointing when despite a rich source in literature and a former film to pick from, a movie misses out the point of the story. The Coen Brothers, who have given some delightful and strong films in the past, completely lose their way in "True Grit". But for some strong performances, this film with excessive dialogues, falls flat.

The story is about 14-year-old Mattie (Hailee Steinfeld), who is thirsting for vengeance after her father is shot dead in cold blood by Tom Chaney (Josh Borlin). She hires a down-on-his-luck Marshal Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) to hunt the man down. LaBoeuf (Matt Damon) joins him. An uneasy relationship develops between the three as they move towards their uncertain goal.

The strength of the book, and the original film, was the grit of the young girl despite the innocence of her youth and her status as a female at a time when women were not expected to be strong. John Ford's original film of the same name, that won John Wayne an Oscar, brought that out. This film completely falls flat on that front.

Another important strength of the John Ford film was the chase, where the tension is built up every moment. In this film, besides the ending, it almost seems like a walk in the park for the trio. Also, the decision not to show the story of the girl, her father and their strong bonding, weakens the plot.

Hence, the audience is left wondering about the motivation of the girl. It is referred to via dialogues, but in doing so, the film fails the fundamental rule of good art - show, don't tell.

Also, the original became a statement of a time where women were not considered equal to men and hence was an important and feminist film. This version chooses to sideline that aspect completely to focus on the relationship between the three people.

"True Grit" thus merely ends up becoming a showcase for the talents of Jeff Bridges, something that we all know and was not really required. And even though the film or Bridges might win an Oscar, it will still remain the tomb of many missed opportunities and one of the weakest film in the Coen Brothers' portfolio.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Tanu Weds Manu Movie Review

Tanu Weds Manu Movie ReviewFilm: "Tanu Weds Manu"; Cast: R. Madhavan, Kangana Ranaut, Jimmy Shergil, Swara Bhaskar; Director: Anand L. Rai; Rating: ** 1/2

Why should you watch "Tanu Weds Manu"? For R. Madhavan who will win you heart as a sweet lovable NRI doctor Manu who has the misfortune of falling in love with a Kanpur-girl Tanu (Kangana Ranaut) who not only rejects him as a suitor but also uses him to elope with her ruffian boyfriend.

Hiding his heartbreak and disappointment behind a smile, Madhavan fits into the role of a goody goody NRI like a glove. He is hopelessly in love with Tanuja who doesn't miss a single opportunity to hurt him. Rules, they say, are meant to be broken and that's what Tanu's agenda in life is - to break all rules that a middle-class family swears by.

Well, an NRI coming home to find a suitable bride for him is very common in Indian society and director Anand Rai's comedy opens with the same. He tries to be as close to reality as possible - from the backdrop, to clothes, to character artists - all bring out the element of a middle-class setup perfectly.

With a marriage in the background providing a perfect place for Tanu's second chance meeting with Manu, the movie traces the relationship between the girl and the NRI. Surely, perfect material for sentimental romances with 'comedy ka tadka'.

But there is something missing to make it a perfect romantic comedy. First, the script is punctured, then their is no chemistry between Madhavan and Kangana and if that was not enough, the narrative doesn't flow at the desired pace - it's slower than it should be.

Though the director picked up an interesting subject, he has not succeeded in executing his story effectively on screen - there are not enough laughs in the film. Whatever funny scenes are there, credit goes to the chemistry between Madhavan and Deepak Dobriyal who plays his friend Pappi.

Kangana's dialogue delivery puts you off and she lacks the spunk and spark to play the free bird that she is in the movie. In fact, Swara Bhaskar, who plays her friend Payal, holds the fort as the Bihari girl who is marrying a sardarji (Eijaz Khan) who also happens to be Manu's best friend.

Payal is impressed with Manu and even tries to drill some sense into Tanu's head but Tanu, a rebel, doesn't want to admit her feelings for the man who is picked by her parents.

Critics won't appreciate the plot but Madhavan fans would find enough material to enjoy the film.

Music plays an important role in a wedding-based romantic comedy and the director could have got it right if he had opted for fast-paced peppy numbers.

In the performance department, full marks go to Madhavan, Deepak and Swara. The supporting cast of K.K. Raina, Rajendra Gupta and Navni Parihar don't have much to do, but whatever role they have, they carry it well. Jimmy Shergill as Kangana's ruffian boyfriend is wasted, so is Ravi Kishen as his sidekick.

If you are looking for a great romantic comedy, this is not the one, but watch it for Madhavan and his chemistry with Deepak.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tanu Weds Manu Movie Preview

Tanu Weds Manu Movie PreviewNew Delhi, Feb 21 (IANS) There is a saying that opposites attract -- and director Aanand L. Rai explores it in his romantic comedy "Tanu Weds Manu", starring Kangana Ranaut and R. Madhavan, which releases Friday.

In the film, Madhavan plays Manoj Sharma a.k.a. Manu, a smart, intelligent, but shy NRI who has all the qualities of a good husband. He loves reading and listening to old songs, but hates loud music and crowded places.

Though he is educated and settled in London, Manu would never do anything against his parents' will. He is keen to marry a homely girl, so he comes to India to find a suitable match and meets Tanu a.k.a. Tanuja Trivedi, who is completely opposite of what he is looking for.

Madhavan admits that it has been his toughest role till date.

A beautiful, charming and extrovert girl from Kanpur, Tanu lives life on her own terms and dreams of marrying a guy who her parents will hate. She is also against arranged marriage and doesn't like being told what to do and what not to.

She loves to ride bikes, drink alcohol and admires Che Guevara, the Argentine Marxist revolutionary, guerrilla leader and military theorist who played a prominent role in the Cuban Revolution.

The film follows how two seemingly opposite-natured people end up falling in love with each other.

True to her character who defies every perceived trait of a small town girl, Kangana didn't shy from riding a Bullet in the film, although she was nervous while shooting the scene. In this sequence she was supposed to ride the bike with a pillion rider and drive through crowded, narrow streets. For this, she gave maximum re-takes.

Leave aside riding a bike, Kangana, who started working at the young age of 16 and couldn't attend college, got a chance to enjoy campus life when she stayed in a Delhi University hostel to prepare for her role.

Kangana plays a resident student of Delhi University. The 23-year-old stayed at the PG Women's Hostel in 2009. The producers arranged for her stay and took the required measures to protect her identity.

Rai has also roped in Jimmy Shergill, Eijaz Khan, Ravi Kishan and Deepak Dobriyal to make the story interesting.

Rumours were abuzz that Madhavan was upset with Kangana hogging the limelight for "Tanu Weds Manu", but the actor denied it saying he is very fond of the actress.

A superstitious Madhavan also asked the director to keep his entry in the film similar to that of "3 Idiots", as he feels it is lucky for him since the film was a blockbuster.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

7 Khoon Maaf Movie Review

7 Khoon Maaf Movie ReviewFilm: "7 Khoon Maaf"; Starring: Priyanka Chopra,Naseeruddin Shah, Irrfan Khan,Anu Kapoor,Alexandr Dyachenko,John Abraham,Neil Nitin Mukesh, Vivaan Shah; Directed by: Vishal Bhardwaj; Rating: ****

Chalk up an absolute winner for the Vishal Bhardwaj-Priyanka Chopra team. They make a coherent vision out of an inconceivable marital crises.

How do you make sense of a woman who's an incorrigible potentially-loathsome serial spouse-killer who when challenged about her weird passion for changing husbands by divine decree rather than the law of the land, turns around and says, "This heart of mine, it's to blame." Wicked laughter follows. And dammit, we are amused!

How does one make head or 'tale' of such a woman? Well, the first thing a director with a canny sense and sensibility does is sign Priyanka Chopra to play the wretchedly unfulfilled, genetically incomplete woman, a living, throbbing warning against the institution of marriage!

Priyanka, not for the first time, proves she is leagues ahead of all competition. She approaches this strange and sensual creature of the night from the outside and then quietly makes inroads into the woman's heart and soul. We can actually see the character's snarled inner-world on Priyanka's face! We don't even know when and how she does it. Priyanka is that kind of a player.

Vishal Bharadwaj has earlier made films about gangs and gangsterism. Every time the dark brooding atmospheric surface seemed to suggest a life of sinister suppressions. Those unspoken, intangible thoughts and visions that often guide a human being to his or her doom are outlined in "7 Khoon Maaf" with supreme poetic elegance.

This is Bhardwaj's most fluidly-narrated film to date. Of course, having Gulzar on board helps. He pens Urdu poetry for Irrfan Khan and rock poetry for John Abraham. For Priyanka poetry is not needed. She creates a kind of indecipherable poetic statement for her deeply dysfunctional character who kills 6 husbands and moves to the 7th at the end of the film with the profound satirical grief of a woman who has discovered that this world has no true love to offer her.

True love...ah! Now that's an idea. At heart Vishal's dark elegiac film is about the search for true love. The relationship that Sussanna (Priyanka) forms with a young boy(Vivaan Shah) as she goes from one husband to another remains at the core of the film. In a macabre subversion of the almost-pure love that Susanna shares with Vivaan's character, at one point in the narration she tries to seduce the boy who's almost like a son. It's a dark ugly moment, almost repugnant in its incestuous resonances but in keeping with the character's insatiable appetite for destruction.

Vishal Bhardwaj brings to the storyboard a deep sense of tragic grandeur even as Susanna slips from self-gratification to delusional spirituality.

Priyanka Chopra has already proved herself way ahead of her contemporaries in her earlier works notably "Fashion" and "What's Your Raashee". In "7 Khoon Maaf" she moves to another level, displaying a range of emotions and age-changes (minus prosthetics) that one last saw in Shabana Azmi's performances.

Priyanka's sequences with Irrfan Khan (playing a gentle poet who transforms into a sexual pervert in bed) are stuff poetic nightmares are made of. We can clearly see the cinematographer (Ranjan Palit) is not in love with the actress, but the character. His camera searches for intransigent images in Susanna's life, even as Priyanka's quest for the character's core takes her into areas of self-expression that are far beyond the reach of cinema acting as we know it.

A. Sreekar Prasad edits the life of Susanna with a surety that, alas,the character never comes close to achieving in her dealings with the opposite sex. Sreekar creates a symphonic seamless movement from one husband to another, sometimes joining segments in Susanna's life with visuals that would otherwise seem incompatible.

The husbands are all played by actors who have no qualms in stripping away their vanity to become the kind of suave but duplicitous untrustworthy spouses who cheat and betray for the sake of the opposite emotion to love. Irrfan Khan as a wolf in poet's clothing, Naseeruddin Shah as the affable old Bengali dietician (his Bengali accent is more dead-on than any true-blue Bengalis) and John Abraham as a stereotypical rock musician gone to poppy-seed, are pitch-perfect in their creating a drama of the callous for Priyanka's character.

But it's Neil Nitin Mukesh as her first legless army-man husband whose display of clenched menace jolts you.

As a storyteller Vishal Bhardwaj has never been more in command of his language. He punctuates Susanna's story with bouts of unexpected humour and poetry. Providentially the murders are committed in ways that appear more humorous than savage. And that's both a good and a bad thing.

The narrative shows a rare understanding of the gender dynamics and the sexual tensions between men and women. Priyanka Chopra's interaction with the unctuous and closet-horny police officer Anu Kapoor delectably illustrates the fable of the Temptress & The Besotted. And by the way Viagara never seemed funnier.

Priyanka Chopra goes from husband-to-husband with a mocking sigh of resigned surrender. She is not a victim. But neither is she the hero of the bizarre web of destruction and delusion that her character weaves around her.

Gnomeo And Julie Movie Review

Gnomeo And Julie Movie ReviewFilm: "Gnomeo And Julie"; Director: Kelly Asbury; Voiceover: James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Ashley Jensen, Michael Caine and others; Rating: ***

It is one of the most famous stories of all times, having been told in different forms and shapes through different times and cultures but with the same message of love over war.

The William Shakespeare version of star-crossed lovers destined for doom gets a modern, animated, 3D avatar and despite a well-known story, some cliches and a happy ending unlike the original, does manage to hold the fun quotient.

The Reds and Blues are two groups of gnomes living in neighbouring houses. For their owners, they are merely decorative pieces, but away from their eyes, they not only come to life, but are at war with each other. Much to their own chagrin Gnomeo, a blue and Juliet, a red, fall in love and aided by a plastic crane, secretly court each other. But can their love survive the hatred of their clans?

The two best things about this film are its immaculate animation and wit. To give garden gnomes the detailed expression would definitely have taken a lot of hard work. The wit and play on garden and gnomes is obvious from the name of the film but also delight in other places. Consider these: 'weapon of grass destruction' and ‘terrafirminator'.

The script of the film went through multiple hands, nine to be exact. And the result shows. Yet, there is something that seems to be missing in the film that could have lifted it from being just good to absolute greatness.

In terms of metaphor though, it's spot on. Would you let the hatred of others destroy your love? The little warring gnome world becomes an analogy for the world, where people find different ways and means to fight and destroy each other. Amidst this, the hope can be a simple love between two people. Unlike Shakespeare's original, this fragile love does win in the end and unite the clans.

The film will obviously delight kids, and with a little stretch of their imagination, adults are likely to enjoy it equally. The pun on cultural kitch and Elton John's music, lends additional charm to this ‘gnonderful' film.

I Am Number Four Movie Review

I Am Number Four Movie ReviewFilm: "I Am Number Four"; Director: D.J. Caruso; Cast: Alex Pettyfer, Timothy Olyphant, Teresa Palmer and Dianna Agron; Rating: ***

After the tremendous cinematic success of "Twilight", there was an opening for something similar in the science fiction space. Hence when a book was being written that brought the broody, angst-ridden teen who has to perennially keep running to the realm of science, the rights for the film were bought even before the book was out.

The result is "I Am Number Four" - a "Superman" meets "Twilight" meets "Jumper" meets "X Men" meets "Transformers" meets "Spiderman" kind of film - that strangely works.

Number 4, played by Alex Pettyfer, is one of the nine living infants from the planet Lorien with special powers that are hunted by the Mogadorians, an evil specie that invade and absorb the resources of new worlds. He lives in hiding with his protector Henri (Timothy Olyphant) and keeps moving from one place to another to avoid detection, till in one place he falls in love with Sarah (Dianna Agron) and wants to stay and fight back practicing, and growing confident of, his telekinetic powers.

The film produced by Michael Bay and directed by D.J. Caruso has stamps of the Steven Speilberg school of filmmaking, where in the beginning everything is underplayed, and the mystery and the powers of the protagonist slowly unfold to a grand, violent finale full of special effects that blows the audience.

There is really nothing original in the film as it merely rearranges known situations and resolutions. Yet, linear, simple and cliched as it may be, it is done without being too in the face. Hence, there's a comfort of the familiar in the film for mass audiences. The discerning audiences can give it a convenient miss.

Though attempt has been made to make Number 4 silent and broody like Robert Pattinson from "Twilight", he is too hulky to be so. Also, in the rush to drive the chase story, there's little time to develop the love angle, something that we will obviously see in the next instalments.

For Indians, this is a special film as it is the first fully produced film by Reliance Big Entertainment in association with Spielberg's studio and thus marks Reliance's true global debut.

"I Am Number Four" represents the hurried rush for formulae that will work at the global stage, obvious from the fact that the rights to the book were brought by Dreamworks a year before the book was released and both the book and the film come barely six months of each other.

The result is the beginning of a new film franchisee. However, to retain audiences' attention, the filmmakers will have to do much better in every department of the film.

Monday, February 14, 2011

7 Khoon Maaf Movie Preview

7 Khoon Maaf Movie PreviewNew Delhi, Feb 14 (IANS) Vishal Bharadwaj's fetish for big screen adaptations of books and plays is well-known. Continuing with what he is best at, the multi-faceted filmmaker is bringing on screen Friday "Susanne's Seven Husbands", which has Priyanka Chopra as a sinister woman who knocks off her husbands one after another.

The film is based on Ruskin Bond's "Susanne's Seven Husbands" and tracks the story of a beautiful young girl Susanna Anna-Marie Johannes (Priyanka) who ends up tying the knot seven times following untimely and mysterious deaths of her hapless husbands.

And due to strange circumstances, Susanna becomes the prime suspect.

Produced by UTV Spotboy and Bharadwaj himself, it stars Neil Nitin Mukesh, John Abraham, Irrfan Khan, Naseeruddin Shah, Annu Kapoor and Russian actor Aleksandr Dyachenko. Naseer's son Vivaan also plays one of the husbands in the thriller.

In the film, Priyanka's character ages from 20 years to 65. The first story titled "Adamkhor Major" has Neil playing the role of Major Edwin Rodrigues. Susanna falls for him as he looks dashing in uniform; he's however a bit old for her and likes to give orders.

Good looking guys are Susanna's weakness.

Post-Edwin's death, Susanna decides to marry Jimmy, played by John, as she is floored by his good looks and musical talent. She, however, doesn't have any idea what's in store for her. This story is called "Ek Duje Ke Liye".

But Jimmy also dies and then enters poet Wasiullah Khan a.k.a. Musafir played by Irrfan. Impressed by his poetry, Susanna marries him too. Although during the day he is gentle, as the dark dawns upon, he becomes something else. This story is called "Mussafir Hoon Yaaron".

"Amar Prem" sees Susanna falling for Nicolai Vronsky, played by Russian actor Aleksandr Dyachenko, from Moscow but this marriage doesn't last long as Vronsky dies too.

Following the death of Susanna's previous husbands, the police start taking keen interest in the case. So police officer Keemat Lal enters Susanna's life. He not only persuades her to marry him but also makes it impossible for her to say no. Their story is titled "Pyaar Ki Keemat".

After the death of Keemat, Susanna is attracted to Dr. Modhusudon Tarafdar. Titled "Mashroom Da", as the story progresses Susanne is now suffering from melancholy and her husband Naseer puts her on mushroom only diet.

The seventh husband is played by Vivaan, but the story has been kept under wraps.

For her role, Priyanka had to go through seven different age makeovers, for which prosthetics had to play a vital part.

Bharadwaj had hired Hollywood special make-up effects artist Greg Cannom of "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" fame to create those seven different looks.

It is also being said that to make Priyanka look like a 65-year-old woman, the make-up team used Priyanka's grandmother's photo for ideas.

Like always, Bharadwaj has also composed the music for the film. The Indian version of traditional Russian folk song "Kalinka", "Darling" instantly struck a chord with the music buffs. It has been sung by Bharadwaj's wife Rekha and Usha Uthup.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

No Strings Attached Movie Review

No Strings Attached Movie ReviewFilm: "No Strings Attached"; Cast: Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher, Cary Elwes, Kevin Kline; Director: Ivan Reitman; Rating: **

The world has gone through a drastic change in its value system. The way people look at love and relationships has undergone a sea-change. This thus must be exciting time for filmmakers as it provides them free and abundant material. Sadly, bound by certain notions of filmmaking, they mess it up. "No Strings Attached" is a perfect example of that.

Emma (Natalie Portman) is a modern woman to the extreme. She wants sex, but not a relationship. After all who has the time to go through the obvious pain that comes with it. And she makes it clear to Adam (Ashton Kutcher). But, we all know, that is simply not possible and Adam falls in love with Emma. The result is a break-up.

They say you can't have a rainbow without the rain. Relationships are pain but with the pain comes ecstasy. Anyone who has been in a relationship would know that there's no way to separate the two.

There was hence a great opportunity to explore modern notions of keeping the two separate by keeping sex and love apart. One has only to see the film to understand how easily that opportunity was lost in the melee of cliche. In the end, the film ends up being a shadow of the potential it demonstrated in an attempt to cash in on the coming romantic weekend.

The main weakness of the film is the script. First of all, the writers have messed up with the focus of the character. The film is told from the point of view of Adam, when it is clearly Emma who is different, unique and who has a problem. Even a little more detailing on explaining what gives Emma the idea she has might have drastically raised the quality of the film.

But quality is obviously not what the filmmakers had in mind. And that is a shame considering that Portman can indeed act and Kutcher can be prodded to do so. It is thus a waste of a good cast.

The film does have a few funny moments. The characterization of some side characters is really well done. Sadly, no amount of bricks in a building can help, if the foundation itself is weak.

The Mechanic Movie Review

The Mechanic Movie ReviewFilm: "The Mechanic"; Cast: Jason Statham, Ben Foster, Tony Goldwyn and Donald Sutherland; Director: Simon West; Rating: **

There is a crisis of sorts in Hollywood. Even when it picks up a decent action thriller of the past and hires a good director, it fails to deliver a good action film. The case in point is "The Mechanic", which at best is decent and in need of a major overhaul.

A loner and extremely efficient hit man decides to train the son of his ex-mentor, who he had himself killed. When the trainee finds out the truth, he wants his piece of vengeance.

The problem with the film is that it misses out on what could have been its most exciting part. A professional hitman efficiently killing someone is not new. However, the cat and mouse game between two hitmen out to get each other would have definitely made a better pulp film than what we have right now.

Sadly, that portion is over in the end in a jiffy.

Instead, it ends up becoming a very low grade pulp fiction, whose only saving grace comes from decent action sequences and restrained performances from its team of actors. And that is indeed enough for most viewers.

Yet, like many other pulp films, this one too reeks of missed opportunities. It could easily have been a statement on the misuse of authority, or of the uneasy bond between two hitmen, of honour between two seemingly dishonourable men. Instead, it becomes merely a vengeance story. Even that would have been great, had the vengeance been brought up a little earlier.

Somewhere in between the crash-boom-bang is hidden a film that could also have had an atmosphere, like the original 1970's film. Thus, if you want, verve, style and character, watch the original on which this one is based.

If you want loads of sex, drugs and action, watch the 2011 version. Of course, the Indian censors have cut the sex scenes.

Patiala House Movie Review

Patiala House Movie ReviewFilm: "Patiala House"; Director: Nikhil Advani; Cast: Rishi Kapoor, Akshay Kumar, Dimple Kapadia, Anushka Sharma; Rating: ****

It takes us just five minutes to get the hang of this film's narrative structure. It is as nimbly-paced as a fast-bowler playing cricket in a wide-open field trying to avoid all the roar and din of the cheering crowds in the stands.

For a film that has a surprisingly large number of characters (after the 23rd Sikh-Briton running up and down the wooden staircase I stopped counting) the noise decibel is surprising low. The clamour of a crowded Sikh household in London never overpowers the emotional kernel of this film.

The delicate supple bonds that grow among people, who are not just mal-adjusted in a foreign land but are also spiritual and emotional misfits in their own household, are brought out in vignettes that show the hand of a confident storyteller.

Nikhil Advani's admirable episodic structure of "Salaam-e-Ishq" failed because of its inordinate length. This time Advani takes no chances with the length. Economy of expression is paramount to the effectual storytelling in "Patiala House". Not that Advani shies away from taking risks. The self-assured manner in which he aggregates the characters in a house run by a patriarchal Sikh in Britain (Rishi Kapoor, firmly in command) without crowding and asphyxiating the canvas shows Advani's deep empathy with the characters who drift into his range of vision.

At heart, "Patiala House" is a father-son story. Akshay has done them before. One immediately recalls Suneel Darshan's "Ek Rishta" where Amitabh Bachchan was the father who drove son Akshay to a state of smothered silences. In "Patiala House" Akshay's silences scream in wounded protest every time papa Rishi Kapoor's iron hand falls on the boy's dreams.

In many ways the screenplay (Advani, Anvita Dutt Guptan) is a compendium of cliches -- despotic dad, timid mother (Dimple Kapadia), unfulfilled son, encouraging girlfriend, her precocious surrogate-son (he reminded me of Kajol's boy in My Name Is Khan). Advani converts familiar characters into real believable warm endearing characters whose lives begin to matter us as we watch them in their Southall setting.

The historic data about the Sikh community in Britain is kept at a bare and bearable minimum. The narrative never feels the burden of the cross-cultural migratory journey made by the plane-load of characters. And that's the film's USP.

Even as the peripheral characters make a fleeting but coherent impact (Rishi Kapoor's pregnant daughter-in-law's anguish at watching her husband being treated like a doormat is as apparent to us as the family's daughter Hard Kaur's tattoo on the arm), we are constantly seeking out the next chapter in the repressed Gattu's wretched-going-on-glorious life.

Akshay plays Gattu with a restrain that never shies away from tears. Every time he thinks of his ruined dreams a trickle of a tear comes down from the side of his cheek. It isn't done for effect. Akshay embraces Gattu's shattering dreams and makes them his own.

Is this Akshay's finest performance to date? For the sheer mastery over the heart and soul of his character and the dignity he brings to the loser's character, yes, this is Akshay's best.

Akshay and Rishi don't look like father and son. And that's the best compliment one can pay to the film's theme. How can they look like a family, when the father has spent all of his son's growing years denying the boy's sense of the self? Oh, Rishi is a bellowing volcano of arrogant prejudices. Brilliantly bravura as always, Rishi almost echoes the tyranny of Prithviraj Kapoor. Player kiya paida to darna kya?

His sudden reformation at the end is unconvincing. The unhurried grace of the rest of the film gives away to an urgently-claimed culmination. One can't blame Advani for abandoning the pace at the end. He knows the audience wants a hurried send-off.

Anusha Sharma remains effervescent in her volubility. But she needs to play a less talkative character.

Though scarce, the moments between Akshay and Dimple are very precious. There is a specially evocative sequence at the hospital when the invalidated Rishi Kapoor tells his screen-wife Dimple Kapadia to shut the door on their screen-son Akshay's face.

The film has some exceptionally emotional moments bolstered by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy's resplendent background score. Santosh Thundiyil's cinematography adds precious little to the proceedings. London doesn't seem to come alive beyond the cricket field.

The editing (Manan Sagar) could have been less generous. Portions of the narrative lose their energy. Before it sags, the director swoops up his characters' dreams into curvy shapes. The narrative never loses its way in the maze and clutter of the characters and ambitions.

Gattu finally finds his groove. The film never loses it.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Monday, February 07, 2011

'Biutiful' Movie Review

'Biutiful'  Movie ReviewFilm: Biutiful; Director: Alejandro González Inárritu; Cast: Javier Bardem, Maricel Álvarez: Language: Spanish; Rating: ****

Akira Kurosawa did it first in 1952 with "Ikiru" and now it's the turn of auteur Alejandro González Inárritu to try his hand at the search for redemption triggered by the certainty of death with a major difference between both. If you know Inárritu's style, you'd know that this would be a dark, harsh take. It is -- and the addition of supernatural elements only heighten the broodiness, the surreality and the 'beauty' of this chaotic story.

Uxbal has the natural ability to converse with the dead which he uses to make a little extra money. Like exploiting the dead, he exploits the living by getting work - legal and illegal - to illegal African and Chinese immigrants in Spain. The only thing he loves, while trying to make sense of his distorted existence and twisted relationships with those around, are his two children.

His life, however, gets out of his narrow focus when he discovers that he has cancer. Unwilling to die with grace and fearing for his children, he tries to tie the loose ends of his life, expand his worldview, while at the same time seeking redemption for his life. The results are disastrous.

Sadly there's no light at the end of the tunnel of his life, and it is a void lit up only by the darkness of his desperation, unfulfilled desires and failures.

The metaphor of the film is of a man alive, who can see the dead, but cannot see how dead he is himself, till he faces his own mortality head on and like a drowning man beats his hands in desperation.

Yet, Inárritu seems to suggest that the search for redemption in the distorted existence of our lives is indeed the most beautiful thing in the world. Like Jesus who said: "Let he who has not sinned, cast the first stone", Inárritu refuses to cast a moral stone at any of his characters or their twisted existence. He merely shines a shaky, compassionate camera at each - struggling with their pains of the past, fear of the future and the occasional search for forgiveness in the present and, through it, hope.

One of the most striking elements of the film, as with Inárritu's every film, is its casting. It is immaculate with the lead Javier Bardem literally leading the way. Maricel Álvarez as the mentally unstable but good-intentioned wife and mother is equally stunning.

This is a film whose atmosphere is created not by its physical setting, but by its shaky hand-held camera movements and by the intensity of its actors. To accentuate the hostile mood, are the strings of Inárritu regular, Gustavo Santaolalla, who discards his usual gentility and gives a dark, broody sound for the film, seemingly jarring, but one that breaks new grounds in background score with its harsh tone and brutality, in perfect sync with the film.

"Biutiful" is a dark film, which seemingly offers no hope. That can indeed be the perception at one level. Yet, on another level one can see it as one of the most beautiful and hope-infested films ever, where not the end result but the present intention of the film, and life, counts.

It seems to suggest that even if one's path to forgiveness and one's own crawl back to death, and hence life, may be lit up with darkness and failure, it is not just worth it, but is eternally beautiful.

'Sanctum' Movie Review

'Sanctum' Movie ReviewFilm: "Sanctum"; Cast: Richard Roxburgh, Ioan Gruffudd, Rhys Wakefield, Alice Parkinson, Dan Wyllie; Director: Alister Grierson; Rating: ***

Somewhere at the middle of the film as the characters are fighting for survival, there's a line when one says, "For the cave, we are just passing dust." And that is indeed how it is for the world where humans, no matter how great we are, are merely passing dust and in the midst of this, all of us trying to find our sanctum sanctorum.

For Frank (Richard Roxburgh) this sanctum is the world's largest cave system in Papua New Guinea which is one of the last few unexplored places on earth. An intrepid, fearless and experienced explorer, he leads the team through the intricate cave structure with sternness. He is particularly harsh on his son Josh (Rhys Wakefield) and his team in equal measures in awe and dislike of him, with his son hating him.

Yet, when a storm blows through the cave and they are trapped inside, the only thing that stands between life and death for these five people is Frank. And the expedition of exploration becomes one of survival as man pits his wits against the fury of nature.

Produced by James Cameron, the most stunning thing about the film is its visuals. The tricky set and lighting is handled with adroitness in this Australian film.

"Sanctum" is a beautiful tribute to the spirit of adventure and discovery in humans. It pays homage to those men desirous to shine a light and to be at places where no human has gone before and the kind of hardships they encounter. And though sometimes it does get a little like a National Geographic documentary, the stunning visuals keep one on the edge.

It is also like a horror film where instead of a man stalking and killing a gang, it is nature's fury that does so. The casting is immaculate and Richard Roxburgh proves himself to be an actor of reckoning.

Based on the true story of co-writer Andrew Wight, Cameron fans will be delighted by another underwater film produced by the master who gave "The Abyss". It is an adrenalin rush for thrill seeking adventurous souls, but might get a little boring for others.

'Alpha Omega' Movie Review

'Alpha Omega' Movie ReviewFilm: "Alpha Omega"; Voiceover: Hayden Panettiere, Christina Ricci, Justin Long; Directors: Anthony Bell, Ben Gluck; Rating: **

If you are an Indian audience, the best part of the 3D film "Alpha Omega" begins a minute after the final credits have started rolling. Hundreds of Indian names clog up the credits enough for you to wonder if you have seen an Indian film made in Hollywood.

And indeed "Alpha Omega" does seem like a typical Bollywood love story.

Two warring clans of wolves in Jasper Nation Park want to end the war and unite each other by marrying Kate and Garth. But Humphrey, who belongs to a lower caste, loves Kate and though she too likes him, she agrees for an arranged marriage with Garth for the sake of peace. Things, however, go out of hand when Kate and Humphrey are captured by park's rangers and sent to another park for re-population.

Aware of her duties, Kate is determined to return home and aided by two golf-playing geese, they try to make their way home.

The main drawback of the story is its lack of originality, even in rearranging cliche. Yet, the film will leave you with a good feeling in the end. The two golf-playing geese would etch themselves in the mind of the audience, just like some side characters in other animation films have endeared themselves to fans.

While the story lets down the audience, what does not is its animation that is spot on and therein lies a proud moment for the Indian animation industry. The look and the feel of the film have entirely been done by a team of Indian animators from Mumbai's Crest Animation Studios.

Hence, at the end of the film when the titles roll out, and along with it hundreds of Indian names, it is indeed a proud moment for the nation that is still stuck in mythology in its own homegrown animation films.

This is a moment of pride better than one person winning an Oscar, because it signifies global standards of the Indian animation industry, rather than excellence of just once person. It shows that India indeed has the skill and expertise, if only some producers would have the courage to back good stories and filmmakers. Hopefully, they will have the sense to select a better story.

'Patiala House' Movie Preview

'Patiala House' Movie PreviewNew Delhi, Feb 7 (IANS) After a disappointing last year when most of his films saw a bearish turn at the box-office, Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar is hoping that his first release of the year, cricket based family-drama "Patiala House", witnesses a bullish trend in the movie business. The film is releasing Friday.

Directed by Nikhil Advani and jointly produced and distributed by Hari Om Productions, T-series and People Tree Films Credence Motion Pictures, "Patiala House" shows how difficult it is for a Sikh boy, played by Akshay, in a patriarchal set up to fulfill his dreams.

And as they say behind every successful man there is a woman and something similar happens to this boy after he meets a girl, Anushka Sharma, who gives him the strength to stand up for what he believes in.

Rishi Kapoor, Dimple Kapadia, Indian rapper and hip hop singer Hard Kaur and Prem Chopra completes Akshay's family in the movie.

The story revolves around the Kahlon family, who has been living in Southall, London for the past four generations. It is ruled by autocratic and stubborn Bauji played by Rishi.

Since he is the head of the family, others have no choice but to adhere to what he says. Scarred by a racial incident that took place 20 years ago, which led to the murder of his mentor and guardian Saini, Bauji hates the British and everything that the country and its people stood for.

The dilemma, however, is that his son Parghat Singh Kahlon aka Gattu (Akshay) wants to be a cricketer and play for the British cricket team. But Gattu doesn't have the courage to stand up to his father therefore drops the idea.

Then enters Simran (Anushka) in Gattu's life and brings in both courage and hope to fulfil his long cherished dream.

Akshay's role in "Patiala House" is said to be inspired by England cricket team's Sikh member Monty Singh Panesar, the first Sikh to join England cricket team and the spinner is the crowds' favourite.

Panesar's parents migrated to London from Punjab.

Made with an approximate budget of Rs.21 crore, the film has been shot in Mumbai and places like Southall, Middlesex, Trent Bridge, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire.

Ian Botham, former England test cricketer and captain, makes his Bollywood debut with a cameo appearance in "Patiala House".

Music trio Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy compositions also make "Patiala House" an entertaining album. Music buffs are already dancing to the tunes of hit Punjabi song "Laung da Lashkara" sung by Jasbir Jassi.

Post "Singh Is Kinng" Akshay's only hit has been "Housefull". So, the star is banking heavily on this film to give him a hit after a string of duds last year - "Tees Maar Khan", "Action Replayy" and "Khatta Meetha".

Along with "Patiala House, "Ashiqui.in" and choreographer Ganesh Acharya's production venture "Angel" will also hit the screens Friday.

"Angel", a love story between a boy and a handicapped girl, is the debut movie of Sanjay Dutt's nephew Nilesh Sahay and actress Sheila Sharma's daughter Madalta.

"Ashiqui.in" will also introduce new faces Ishaan Manhas and Ankita Shrivastava. The film is about two people - Cyrus and April - who chat online and become closer without revealing their true identities.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

'Yeh Saali Zindagi' Movie Review

'Yeh Saali Zindagi' Movie ReviewFilm: "Yeh Saali Zindagi"; Director: Sudhir Mishra; Cast: Irrfan Khan, Chitrangda Singh, Arunodoy Singh, Aditi Rao Hydari; Rating:*** 1/2

To describe the roller-coaster ride that is "Yeh Saali Zindagi" is to attempt to draw the picture of the Red Fort at the seaside. Every attempt to define the plot will be washed away by forces beyond our control. So let's just say, it is an edgy and raw take on what it takes to make love, loyalty and other related illusions jell in a rapidly-mutating consumerist society like ours.

The film is set in and around Delhi's underbelly. Mishra explores the capital's get-rich sub-culture, revealing a flair for satire even at the most deplorable moments of reckoning. Yup, Guy Ritchie and Quentin Tarantino would approve of Mishra's humour in the most sanguinary circumstances.

Almost every character in this foul-tongued treatise on love, lust and longing during times of gangwars, is stricken by a get-rich-quick itch, which eats into the very core of their existence, corroding their sense of propriety.

"Yeh Saali Zindagi" has some terribly funny moments of violence where you shock yourself by laughing at the senseless callousness of the killings. We have ruffians from in and around Delhi with thick Haryanvi accents who just gun down a man and then wonder why they killed him. In another funny sequence, a goon is asked to kill his own brother-in-law. The goon acts scandalized but instantly pulls the trigger when the price is right.

To be or not to be bad is no more the question. Being evil is fashionably acceptable.

There are hardly any reposeful moments in the narration. The breakneck storytelling replicates the restlessness of the characters. With a maestro's adeptness, Mishra weaves two love stories into the panoramic view of crime and corruption.

While Irrfan Khan plays a man taken by surprise by the eruption of unconditional passion for a crooner who gives a damn about him, Chitrangda's gold-digger act is a sophisticated variation of Vidya Balan's conniving seductress in "Ishqiya". Her character has been created with a sensuous vigour that very few actresses in Hindi cinema can boast of.

But "Yeh Saali Zindagi" is not a film that invites you to watch the characters' perform. It instead spreads the characters out in a wide, unmanageable net of indeterminate purpose but definite motivations. Get rich, fast, is the magic mantra.

Arunodoy Singh, as the tough Delhi jail-bird Kuldeep, exudes the scent of self-destructive aspirations. Not surprisingly Arunodoy's character is constantly running through crowded marketplaces and congested roads of Old Delhi, pursuing his angry and defiant wife (Aditi Rao Hydari). Arunodoy furnishes this love story with a perspirational passion, a far cry from his uncomfortable presence in the "Aisha".

Chitrangda plays the part-time crooner, full-time wealth-chaser with a robust but feminine cunning. She is a temptress, a fighter and packs a punch into her oomph. And when she finally surrenders to the overpowering devotion of Irrfan's character, she transforms into a woman with a conscience.

The conscience is a scarce commodity in Mishra's films. The characters are wild, boorish misfits who probably bathe once every week and go to the temple only to steal the deity's jewellery. Indeed gangsterism acquires an extended sense of humour in "Yeh Saali Zindagi". But one wishes the film had gone easy on the expletives and profanities.

Garnished with innovative music by Nishat Khan and Abhishek Ray and Sachin Kumar Krishnan's camera work that captures Delhi in all its eccentric quirky askew glory. "Yeh Saali Zindagi" has stand-out performances by Arunodoy, Chitrangda, Aditi, Saurabh Shukla, Sushant Singh and Yashpal Sharma.

But it's Irrfan Khan who leaves the deepest wound on the bloodied face of this savagely funny film. He is able to put across all the turmoil and confusions of an otherwise-hard-headed man who can't understand his burst of passion for a woman of dubious means and even more dubious morals.

Yes, the narrative meanders. We often don't know what it's looking for. Just like the characters who are lost in a labyrinth of kidnapping, embezzlement and sex. The people in Mishra's movie are forever seeking self-gratification through means that are quite outrageous from the outside though perfectly explicable from the perspective of the perpetrators.

"Yeh Saali Zindagi" is like of those nightmares that you have probably seen on a feverish night. The acts of injustice perpetrated by the characters nowhere suggests that they are compelled by circumstances to act as criminals. These people just can't help being bad.

Brutal, savage, funny and violent, "Yeh Saali Zindagi" is not for the weak-hearted.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

'Yeh Saali Zindagi' Movie Preview

'Yeh Saali Zindagi' Movie PreviewNew Delhi, Jan 31 (IANS) Known for making realistic and thrilling cinema with romance as an integral part, director Sudhir Mishra returns with "Yeh Saali Zindagi", about the unpredictability of life and complexity in relationships.

What happens when you are screwed in love? Irrfan Khan, Arunoday Singh, Chitrangada Singh and Aditi Rao Hydari will show you the quirky, romantic coincidences and commotions through their characters Arun, Kuldeep, Priti and Shanti respectively in "Yeh Saali Zindagi", which is releasing Friday.

In the film, Arun (Irrfan) has to save Priti (Chitrangada) the woman he loves, but before that he has to save the man Priti loves - Shyam who is the future son-in-law of a powerful minister.

On the other hand, time is running out for Kuldeep (Arunoday), a gangster, who is on his last job as his wife threatens to walk out on him. But he believes that she is cheating on him and wants to leave him for another man.

Kuldeep can handle dreaded gangsters, but when it comes to his wife, he is weak and soft. He is screwed when the minister's daughter calls off her engagement with Shyam whom Kuldeep has held captive. She doesn't care about Shyam any more; neither does the minister who Kuldeep hoped would pay the ransom.

The film shows how far these two men would go to get the women they love and how sometimes what they believe to be a goof-up can also help put things on the right track.

While Irrfan and Arunoday are working for the first time with Mishra, this is Chitrangada's second film with the filmmaker after "Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi" in 2005.

"She gives lots of grace to rather complicated stories. There is a lot of depth in her performance. Whenever I would have a part like that, I would go for her," the filmmaker said.

Made at a budget of about Rs.10 crore, the film is produced by Prakash Jha and was shot in Delhi. The director canned the scenes in areas like Chandni Chowk and Karol Bagh and even in a village on the outskirts of the capital.

Sitarist Nishat Khan has composed the music, while Swanand Kirkire penned lyrics.

As a director Mishra has made his mark with "Dharavi " and "Chameli", but his last outing "Raat Gayi Baat Gayi" was not so successful and another directorial ventureof his, "Tere Kya Hoga Johnny", has yet to see the light of the day. Hence "Yeh Saali Zindagi" is an important film for him and he is leaving no stones unturned to promote it.

The critically acclaimed director even launched online game - Love Rescue Mission - on the official Facebook fan page of the movie and got overwhelming response. Hopefully, the movie gets same kind of response at the box office when it opens.

"It's a relief that the film is releasing. It's releasing well, Prakash Jha is behind the film, actors are good, people are liking the film, the promos are creating a good buzz, music is very good...finally it seems things are on track," Mishra told IANS.

So far movies released this year enjoyed a good run at the box office. "Yeh Saali Zindagi" is the first release of the second month of the year and hopefully it continues the success story.
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